Plums—the last of this year's stonefruits—are still speckling the market with their bright yellow and deep purple hues. After coming home with basket full of purple plums—not totally sure what to do with them—I landed on this recipe from Mark Bittman for Autumnal Spice Plums. This recipe is the best of both worlds, it makes a dessert—the plums get tender and soak up the warm spices—and a syrup, which is intended to be drizzled over the plums, but it's also great added to a cocktail.
And that's exactly what I did. The syrup is rich with flavor—it's got a bright juiciness from the plums, sweet notes from the syrup and honey, and bold spices from the cinnamon and anise. Since it's fairly complex, I paired it with hard cider which is effervescent with a tanginess that balances the syrup's sweetness. The addition of a little applejack helps to support the apple flavor and adds depth to the cocktail.
The final drink is light and sippable, perfect for brunch or an afternoon on the porch admiring the changing colors of the leaves.
- For the Plum Syrup:
- 2 pounds plums, halved and pitted
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 star anise
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- For the Cocktail:
- 2 ounces plum syrup
- 1 ounce Applejack
- 4 ounces hard apple cider
To make the plum syrup: Heat oven to 325°F. Arrange plums cut side down in an ovenproof dish that holds them in 1 layer.
In a medium saucepan, combine honey, cinnamon, maple syrup, star anise, balsamic vinegar, and water. Place on medium-high heat. As soon as mixture begins to boil, pour evenly over plums. Cover dish tightly with foil.
Bake plums until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove foil, and let cool slightly. Remove plums from dish (they can be served for dessert, with a little syrup poured over them). Strain syrup into a jar with an airtight lid. It will keep for two weeks in the refrigerator.
To make the cocktail: Fill cocktail shaker with ice. Add plum syrup and applejack. Shake for about 10 seconds. Strain into a glass filled with ice, then pour the cider over top. Gently stir cocktail and serve.