Hot pepper jelly, bourbon smoked sugar, five spice and peach liquor in a spicy old fashioned? Did I think it would work? Hell, no! Did it, Hell yes! No one in their right mind would put hot pepper jelly in an old fashioned, would they? Well, I never claimed to be in my right mind, and this combination makes a complex, original old fashioned that sings with the right whiskey. If you love weird flavor combinations that make an unique and intriguing cocktail, read on.
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Flavors in this Spicy Old Fashioned
It started with jam week. I did a couple articles on jam cocktails last week and had success with both gin and bourbon, and your typical jams. But I have a few friends on social media who adore hot pepper flavors, so I wanted to up the ante and see if I could use an unusual, savory jelly in an old fashioned and get it to work.
Girl, did it!
So I started with hot pepper jelly, and my only experience with it lately has been on a block of cream cheese on crackers. It’s not my favorite, but sometimes that makes the challenge even more fun. The pepper jelly from Trader Joe’s almost tastes like a hot chili sauce I’d use for a stir fry, and it’s got a great kick to it. However, it’s very sweet, so I knew I wouldn’t need to add simple syrup to the ingredients.
Also, I’ve been dying to add Five Spice bitters (https://drizly.com/extras/mixers-syrups-bitters/bitters/bar-keep-chinese-bitters/p819) to a cocktail successfully, but it’s not a natural pairing with whiskey, and the gins I have are too floral for it to work. But with this combination, because the pepper jelly tastes like Asian chili sauce to me, I decided to try it. I was right. It was a good match.
But it was missing something to tie together the sweet pepper taste to the rye, so I added just a smidge of peach liqueur. The smell of the cocktail made me think of grilled fruit. Adding the peach liqueur made the cocktail bind together. It created a link between the stone fruit in the rye and the cinnamon in the five spice. It reminded me of desserts created with grilled peaches.
So I added in some bourbon barrel smoked sugar and the cocktail was complete!
Ingredients for this Hot Jammed Old Fashioned
While I intended for this spicy old fashioned cocktail to be just rye, hot pepper jelly and five spice bitters, I did have to add a little Giffard’s peach liqueur and some bourbon smoked sugar. If you make the cocktail without the liqueur the flavors fight one another too much.It tastes like the cocktail can’t decide what it wants to be and everyone is shouting at you at once.
I garnished initially with an orange peel. But, I had received some dehydrated fruit wheels from Dried Peel that were infused with different spices. One of them was infused with Chinese five spice. It was a perfect choice atop the cocktail. Letting it steep in the cocktail for a few minutes just brings out the heat of everything. It was glorious.
How to Make a Spicy Old Fashioned
Instead of stirring, like we normally would for an old fashioned, because we’re using jelly, we need the action of shaking the cocktail with ice to truly integrate the flavors. Now, depending on the heat and sweetness of your hot pepper jelly, you might need to use more or less of it in the cocktail. I started with 1 tsp, but needed to increase to 1.5 tsp to get more heat and more sweet in the drink. Choose a balance that works for your palate.
Make sure to add ice and shake, but don’t over shake – you only need 10-12 seconds of shaking to chill a cocktail properly. Strain into an old fashioned glass and garnish with one of the Five Spice-infused dried orange wheels to steep even more flavor into the drink.
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Hot Jammed Old Fashioned
- 2 oz rye
- 1.5 tsp hot pepper jelly
- 1/2 oz Giffard’s Peach liqueur
- 2 dashes Greenbar Barkeep Chinese 5 spice bitters
- 2 pinches Bourbon Barrel Foods bourbon smoked sugar
- 1 Bar Spoon simple syrup
- Garnish: Dried Peel 5 spice orange wheel
- Combine rye, jelly, liqueur, bitters, smoked sugar and a bar spoon of simple to a cocktail shaker and add ice. Shake for 10-12 seconds and strain into a rocks glass with one large cube. Garnish with orange peel or dehydrated five spice-infused orange wheel.