While I did one of these a long time ago on Instagram, I hadn’t written up the deliciousness that is the peanut butter and jelly old fashioned. It’s still old fashioned week here in Louisville so I’m still setting up creative old fashioneds for you. As a whiskey cocktail, it’s one of the easiest cocktails to create variations of. And, as a bonus, whiskey!
While some people advocate using strawberry jam in peanut butter sandwiches (ahem, my in-laws), we were always a solid grape jelly family for our PBJ sandwiches. I still prefer the taste of grape jelly over strawberry or raspberry, so the cocktails that call for Chambord or strawberry liqueur don’t taste quite right to me.
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What’s an Old Fashioned?
Most of you who’ve been following me for a bit know what an old fashioned is because I make them so often, but for those of you who don’t, here a quick primer. An old fashioned whiskey cocktail is one of the oldest cocktails and consists of whiskey, sugar and bitters. As a bourbon lover my first inclination is always to head to bourbon for my old fashioneds, but a lightly peated scotch or a spicy rye would also work wonderfully in this cocktail.
For more on the history of the old fashioned and how to make (imho) a perfect old fashioned, check out my article, How to Make a Perfect Old Fashioned. It’s got the basics of the history of the cocktail, along with tips on how to play with the recipe and find your perfect old fashioned recipe.
Ingredients for the Peanut Butter and Jelly Cocktail
Now, I mentioned above that many people use Chambord, a black raspberry liqueur, or a strawberry liqueur to make their peanut butter cocktails, but I truly prefer the sweetness of the concord grape jelly. The contrast of that sweetness with a lightly salted natural peanut butter on a soft bread makes a fabulous sandwich.
So, to make this peanut butter old fashioned we’ll need a grape jelly simple syrup, peanut butter liqueur, whiskey and bitters. It’s not a complicated recipe at all, and it’s put together like a simple old fashioned, in a mixing glass.
For the bitters I used 18.21 aromatic bitters which I find more flexible than angostura in bitters. And I also used a strawberry sassafras bitters from B.D. Bittering. Alas, they don’t have an online presence, but I’ve seen them on the shelf in independently owner liquor stores in Louisville, and at Willett Distillery in Bardstown.
For a garnish, I skewered a mini PB&J sandwich just to be fancy, but you could just peanut butter the rim of the glass. If you do that, I highly recommend you use processed peanut butter, not natural peanut butter. Natural peanut butter will run right down your glass as it warms up. It’ll make a mess of your hands and your glass. This is one time the processed stuff is a better option.
How to Make the Grape Jelly Syrup
While some people create the cocktails with just a tablespoon or two of grape jelly, that presents two problems. The first is that since it’s a jelly, it has pectin or thickening agent in it. That means that as you are mixing it in with your other ingredients it never really combines and will often leave small clumps of jelly in the bottom of your mixing glass and old fashioned glass.
The second problem is that since it’s got the thickening agent in it, even if you warm it so that it’ll combine better you’ll over dilute your cocktail since it will melt more of the ice than the room temperature items you’ll be adding.
The solution? Create a concord grape juice simple syrup. This concentrates that grape jelly taste, but without adding the pectin and solidifying agents of the jelly, leaving the cocktail smooth. And it leaves the bottom of your glass free of clumps of grape jelly. The only downside is that grape jelly comes in large, 32 oz containers, and that’s a lot of simple syrup.
We’ll create the grape simple with a one to one ratio of grape juice to sugar. Make sure to use 100% grape juice, not a juice with corn syrup or other juices. You want to stick to concord grape juice to get the taste closest to concord grape jelly.
The grape juice and sugar are an easy combination to put into a mason jar, shake up and store in the fridge. I’ll include the recipe with the full cocktail instructions below.
How to Make a Batch of Peanut Butter and Jelly Cocktails
One way to use up all of that grape juice is to batch your peanut butter and jelly old fashioned to have on hand or for a small gathering. I love to batch old fashioneds as cocktails. They translate easily into batches for 8 to 10 by converting the ounces to cups.
For this batched cocktail, we’ll combine:
- 1 cup of peanut butter liqueur
- 1 cup of 90-100 proof bourbon (or whiskey you prefer)
- ½ cup of grape simple syrup
- ½ cup of water
- ¼ tsp of aromatic bitters
- ½ tsp of strawberry sorghum bitters
You need to combine all of those together in a pitcher or old bourbon bottle, taste test and refrigerate. You may need to increase the bitters. If the cocktail is too sweet, add more bitters. Refrigerate until chilled before serving.
This batch can be kept in the fridge and pulled out for a rocks cocktail when needed, or when company comes over. If you’d rather not make a mini PBJ for garnish, you could always add a little peanut butter cookie to it.
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You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:
Peanut Butter and Jelly Old Fashioned
- 1 oz bourbon 90-100 proof (or your favorite whiskey)
- 1 oz peanut butter liqueur
- ½ grape simple syrup**
- 16 drops B.D. Bittering strawberry sassafras bitters
- 8 drops 18.21 aromatic bitters
- Garnish: mini peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Combine bourbon, peanut butter, simple syrup and bitters in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until well chilled and strain into a rocks glass with a large cube. Garnish with a mini pb&j sandwich and enjoy!
- 1 cup concord grape juice
- 1 cup simple syrup