With alternating smoky, nutty, and jammy notes, this cocktail plays up the complexity of Concord grapes. The result is a bit of a confounding cocktail: three assertive flavors that marry amazingly well.
I had big dreams of making a Concord grape syrup with no added water. Grapes have plenty of juice, I figured, but those big seeds and tough skins also have a ton of pectin, the stuff that makes jellies gel. Even after reducing the amount of sugar in the syrup and cooking it over really low heat, I got a very nice concord grape jelly. So, the final recipe does have a bit of water, but thanks to the bold, musky flavor of the Concords it is still mighty full-flavored. Many Concord recipes call for separating the skins of the grapes from the flesh (Concords are a "slip-skin" variety, which means the skins slide easily off of the flesh). To avoid that step here, reduce the cooking time, and still get jammy flavor, the grapes take a quick whir in the blender first to chop up the skins a bit and break down the flesh.
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- For the Concord Grape Syrup:
- 1 1/2 cups Concord grapes, stems removed (8 ounces with stems)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- For the Cocktail:
- 1 1/2 ounces blended Scotch
- 3/4 ounce Oloroso Sherry
- 3/4 ounce Concord grape syrup
- 1/4 ounce juice from 1 lemon
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Lemon peel, for garnish (optional)
For the Concord Grape Syrup: Pulse the grapes a few times on low speed in a blender then puree on low for a few seconds, until the grape skins are chopped and the grape flesh is slightly broken down. Combine the rough grape puree with the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over very low heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. The mixture should only simmer for the last 3 minutes of its cooking time. Remove from heat, strain through a fine mesh sieve, gently pressing the solids to extract the liquid. Refrigerate until completely cool.
For the Cocktail: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the Scotch, sherry, grape syrup, lemon juice, and bitters. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with lemon peel if desired.