Fig Old Fashioned: Quite possibly the best cocktail I’ve ever had

I don’t post a lot of cocktails on here, and there’s a reason for that.  It’s because I would generally rather just drink straight whiskey.  But every so often, a cocktail comes along that melts my cold, cold heart.

This is one of those cocktails.

It all started when my friend Melanie, who writes the Vegan For One blog (among other things), suggested that I make this cocktail and post about it here and on her blog.  I was like, fresh figs plus bourbon??  Sign me up!

See I love fresh figs.  Not as much as Melanie does.  No one loves figs as much as Melanie does.  She might stab me over the last fig on a plate, even though she loves me very much.  But I do love them.  They’re in season for approximately five seconds and completely unavailable the rest of the year.  And those five seconds are right now, so run out and get ‘em!

Not a fig newton

If you’ve only ever had fig newtons, you have no idea what you’re in for.  Fresh figs are nothing like fig newtons.  They are juicy and sweet, complex in flavor when ripe, and absolutely luscious.  They pair excellently with bleu cheese, salty meats like prosciutto, arugula, balsamic reduction.  You get the idea.  This is a fresh fig.  Isn’t it gorgeous?

So without further ado, the recipe, adapted from the kitchn.  The main thing I changed from both the kitchn’s recipe and the similar one Melanie sent me is that I doubled it.  I made it as written, and I was just sad.  It wasn’t enough.  It looked sad in the glass, all small.

I gave that one to my husband, and made myself a proper drink.  So this is a double. A proper, Whiskey Pam, glass-filling double. You can halve it if you like.




Fig Old Fashioned

  • 2 fresh figs (Black Mission if you can find them)
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 ounces bourbon (2 shots)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar


1. Remove the stem from the figs and cut them into quarters.  Place fig pieces in the bottom of a cocktail shaker.

2. Add the maple syrup to the fig pieces and muddle into a paste.

3. Add the bourbon, orange juice, and balsamic vinegar, and fill the shaker with ice.

4. Shake and double strain into an old-fashioned glass with plenty of ice.

Some notes.  First.  Yes, really.  Around the time you pour the maple syrup in, and then again more strongly when you’re measuring out the balsamic vinegar, you are going to feel very skeptical.  You are going to doubt me.  You are going to wonder if you’re wasting these amazing, delicious, and probably rather expensive figs.

Trust!  The finished drink will taste like neither vinegar nor maple syrup.  It will not be as sweet as a classic Old Fashioned.  What it will be is bourbon-y, figgy, citrusy, with depth and complexity, and so fancy you will want to wear your fancy pants.

Second, the double straining is the hardest part.  The first straining happens in the cocktail shaker with the built in strainer, and for the second, I used a small fine mesh strainer.

The fig pulp definitely gums up both strainers.  In the shaker itself, pour until the liquid stops coming, but then shake things around a bit and pour again.  There is probably more liquid in there, and you don’t want to lose any of it.  You may have to do this more than once to get all of the liquid out.  Also, in the fine mesh strainer, you will probably have to stir the pulp around with a spoon to get all of the liquid to drain through, and maybe even empty it once in the middle.

The messy aftermath, including my super fancy “muddler,” a.k.a. the handle of my silicone spatula.

This is sounding like a pain, isn’t it?  I know.  As I looked at the aftermath in my kitchen, not having tasted the drink yet, I was like, there is no way this can possibly be worth all this mess.

I photographed the drink. Still hadn’t tasted it.

I checked that the photos were good enough for me to start drinking.

And then I had my first sip.

It was worth it.

It was really very possibly the best cocktail I have ever had. The balance of it.  The depth. The bourbon comes through enough for my taste, which is often an issue for me with cocktails.  But the fresh figs, the citrus, and the other things… the mysterious things that I know are vinegar and maple syrup, but you would never know that.  They all combine into a cocktail that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

And given that one of its parts is fresh fig, that’s really saying something.