The time for fresh figs has passed, but fig preserves let me play with this holiday flavor year round – especially in this mandarin orange fig sour. Bursting with sweetness from the figs, citrus from the orange and lemon and great hint of bitterness from the orange zest, it’s a cross between a smash and a Boston sour. And it’s perfect for a November happy hour.
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Fresh figs are only in season a short time, so I buy them any time I see them. They turn drinks a gorgeous light pink color and add a lovely creamy taste to cocktails. But what to do when they’re not available? Reach for dried figs and fig preserves.
While not beautiful like their fresh siblings, dried figs and fig preserves concentrate the sweet caramel and date flavors of figs. In fact, I sometimes prefer them as they remind me of Fig Newton cookies (which were introduced in 1859, by the way).
The interesting shape of figs is because the flower of the fig is the inside of the fruit – that’s what all those seeds are and why it looks so gorgeous when cut in half.
Fresh figs don’t last long once picked, but dried figs and fig preserves can keep the flavor and texture in your cocktails and cooking year round. You just won’t have those beautiful pink hues in your drinks and dishes unless you work with fresh figs.
Pairing Figs and Citrus in the Mandarin Orange Fig Sour
I’ve done a few sours with fresh figs before and they are always beautiful and tasty. While figs don’t taste or smell like citrus, their caramel, toffee, and brown sugar aromas blend well with the sharp citrus peel we’ve got from the muddling.
While I could have created this orange fig sour with just juice from the mandarin, that bitter orange peel flavor and smell would have been missing. I’m counting on that bitterness from the orange oil and the addition of two kinds of bitters to cut through the cocktail’s figgy sweetness.
If you choose to use a regular orange with this, or a tangerine, muddle with the peels on. Getting that burst of orange oils from the citrus provides a good bit of the balance of the drink.
Combining the Whiskey Smash and a Boston Sour
I know this isn’t typical – to muddle a drink, then add egg white – but I wanted to give the cocktail a little color contrast and a lovely creamy bed of foam to tie in to the creamy mouthfeel from the fig preserves.
For this orange fig sour I started with the muddling that happens in a typical whiskey smash, this time concentrating on pulling bitter orange oils from the mandarin peel. The muddling also helped me mix the fig preserves with the lemon juice and chai simple syrup so that fig taste runs through the whole cocktail.
After muddling with everything except the whiskey and egg white, I add in the whiskey and ice, and shake for about 10-15 seconds. Next, I’ll double strain the cocktail into a mixing glass, add the egg white and use a latte whisk or frother to whip up the egg white into a thick foam.
Because it’s already been strained, I go for a straight pour into my chilled coupe glass.
If you don’t have a latte whisk, just double strain the chilled cocktail into a shaking tin, add the egg white and shake for about a minute to whip up the foam. It’ll just take a little more elbow grease.
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Mandarin Orange Fig Sour
- 1.5 tablespoons fig preserves
- 1 mandarin orange chopped with peel
- 2 dashes Crude fig and orange bitters
- 1 dash Old Forester smoked cinnamon bitters
- 1/2 oz Lemon juice
- ¼ oz chai simple or maple syrup
- 2 oz rye or bourbon whiskey
- 1 egg white
- Garnish: mandarin wheel and dried fig
- Combine fig preserves, mandarin orange, bitters, chai simple syrup and lemon juice in a shaker and muddle until the orange peels are fragrant in the shaking tin. Add whiskey and ice, and shake for about 10 seconds. Double strain into a new shaker or mixing glass, add egg white and use latte whisk or frother for 30 seconds to build the foam. Pour into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish.