I had to take a break from the classics to share this amazing Fig and Fennel Sour with you. It’s a very subtle, delicate cocktail, with hints of fennel and fig in it. Because I’m using fresh fennel and fig, I’m not working with powerful, concentrated flavors, and I really enjoyed the way this cocktail was both light an intriguing. It’s not nearly as spirit forward in flavor as my usual cocktails.
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Why Fennel and Fig in a Sour?
I truly enjoy making a trip to the grocery or farmers’ market to see what’s in season. In this case, fresh figs were available, one of my favorites. I’ve tried for years to grow fig trees, but in Kentucky, the weather’s a little too cold. Every winter the fig trees would die back to the ground and I’d be lucky if I got even two or three figs off each.
I originally wanted to do a whiskey infusion with the fresh figs, but the flavor of a fresh fig is delicate. It’s not something that can stand up to the strength of a bourbon or whiskey in most cases. So I decided I would muddle it in a fennel simple syrup with a sour where its sweetness would build onto citrus flavors in the cocktail.
As for fennel, my Mom bought a dill plant, but quickly realized she’d bought a fennel plant by mistake. By that time it was already in the ground. I offered to use the fennel plan for cocktails. Once the fennel started to flower I picked my moment.
Making the Fennel Simple Syrup
I used the fennel bulb to make simple syrup and used the fronds for garnish. The first time I attempted to make simple syrup with the fronds from the plant, but the syrup had a strange, spinach/vegetal taste to it. Do not recommend. I tossed it. The next time I stuck with the bulb for the heated simple.
The taste of this fennel simple syrup is lightly licorice and very slightly vegetal. When I made the fennel syrup, I simply cut up one fennel bulb and put it in a simple syrup that was simmering. I added one star anise. I turned off the heat and let it steep for an hour. I strained it and popped it in the fridge.
Other Flavors in the Fig and Fennel Sour
Because the fig and fennel would be easily overpowered, I went with a lower proof whiskey that plays well with delicate flavors, Woodford Reserve. It needed a balance of bitters in it because the figs muddled in the cocktail added a lot of sweetness to it. I used Bittercube’s Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters to round out the cocktail.
This sour is soft, delicate and far too easy to sip. You’ll want a second one before you’re finished with the first.
If you want more information on sours, this week I’ve got a series on the Classic Whiskey Sour, the Boston Sour/Vegan Sour and the New York Sour. Click over for the basic recipes I use to create riffs on these classics.
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Fig and Fennel Sour
- 2 oz 80-90 proof bourbon
- 2 large fresh figs, chopped
- ¾ oz fennel simple syrup**
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 barspoon hibiscus syrup (just to add a tiny bit more color)
- ¾ oz aquafaba or egg white
- 3 dashes Bittercube cherry bark vanilla bitters
- Garnish: fresh fig
- Combine fennel syrup, lemon juice and figs in the bottom of a shaker. Muddle well, until the figs are broken up. Add the egg white/aquafaba, whiskey and bitters. Add ice and shake until very, very cold, at least 30 seconds. If you don’t have the arms for it, double strain into a mixing glass and use a milk frother whisk on the cocktail for about 20 seconds, or until it’s light and fluffy. Pour into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a fresh fig.
- 1 medium bulb fennel, chopped
- 1 cup sugar
- ¾ cup water
- 1 star anise