Why It Works
- Simmering the grape skins and seeds in the syrup before straining breaks down pectin, which increases yield while extracting more Concord flavor.
- Combining three assertive ingredients with contrasting flavors sounds illogical, but here it works perfectly.
Concord grape season is fleeting, but there’s nothing small about the distinctive taste of these native grapes. To capture the season in a glass, I came up with three cocktails featuring this special grape.
With alternating smoky, nutty, and jammy notes, this cocktail plays up the complexity of the Concords' flavor. It features a Concord grape syrup, which is bold enough to stand up to the base of blended Scotch. Dry oloroso sherry, which has a nutty richness, brings everything together. The result is a bit of a confounding cocktail: three assertive flavors that marry amazingly well. Don't tell the others, but this cocktail is a new favorite of mine.
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.
- 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 grapes a few times on low speed in a blender then purée on low for a few seconds, until grape skins are chopped and grape flesh is slightly broken down. Combine rough grape purée with 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 solids to extract liquid. Refrigerate until completely cool.
For the Cocktail: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add 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.