1 oz apple brandy
1 oz toasted hazelnut-infused bourbon
heavy teaspoon maple syrup
2 dash Angostura bitters
orange peel for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Fill with ice, stir for 15-30 seconds, and strain into a chilled rocks glass over ice, preferably 1 large cube. Or build and stir in a rocks glass. Express the oils from the orange peel and garnish.
I created this simple Old Fashioned riff for Clover Club’s fall cocktail menu a few years ago. Featuring a split base of apple brandy and toasted hazelnut-infused bourbon, it’s one of the more festive spirit-forward cocktails I know, and cut from a cloth very similar to the Applejack Old Fashioned.
Infusing nuts in booze is as easy as infusing anything else, just put them together and wait. The only difference is nuts need to be toasted first to bring their oils to the surface, which is where all their flavor is. I’ve had a lot of success infusing hazelnuts, aka filberts. Their sweet, caramel-like aroma comes through beautifully, and pairs exceptionally well with bourbon.
The infusion takes a few days, so allow yourself enough lead time. You can always expedite the process by adding more hazelnuts. Most importantly, be sure to use blanched, aka skinless nuts, such as these. Splitting the maple syrup with some cinnamon syrup, if you happen to have some on hand, is a nice touch too.
Tips for Infusing Nuts
Any kind of nut can be used infused into alcohol. From peanuts to pecans to pistachios. The more distinctively aromatic they are, the more their flavors will show through. I recommend using barrel-aged spirits like whiskey, aged rum, and brandy, though feel free to let your imagination run amok. Below are a few keys to keep in mind. They will, of course, vary from nut to nut.
Nuts are more than 50% oil, which is where their primary flavors come from. Toasting them is essential for infusions (and great for any culinary project that involves nuts) because it brings more oil to the surface, and develops richer and more complex flavors. Toasting for about 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees is good for pecans, walnuts, almonds and the like. Smaller nuts like peanuts, pistachios and pine nuts will need less time, 5 minutes or so.
Buy Blanched Nuts or Remove the Skins
I mentioned this above, but it bears repeating. The skins from nuts will cause infusions to become tannic, chalky and totally useable. Speaking from experience, this is very demoralizing after waiting 3-4 days.
Hazelnuts are particularly susceptible. Be careful, they are often sold with the skins on. You can remove them yourself by toasting the nuts, then rolling them, which flakes off the skins. But this extra step is messy and won’t remove everything. It’s far easier to buy balanced hazelnuts. They’ll likely be roasted too, which is fine, though you’ll still need to toast them again. Here are some.
How Long to Infuse
Different nuts require different infusion times. This main variable is whether they have an outer skin that can be removed or not. Nuts that have skins that can’t be removed - such as pecans or walnuts - should spend less time infusing. They will become astringent much quicker. Use the same ratio of nuts to booze as listed across the page, but infuse for only 24-48 hours at the most.
For nuts that can be balanced/skinned - hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, etc. - it’s much more flexible. The same rules listed in the hazelnut infusion recipe apply. After 3-4 days it should be good to go, but it can continue to infuse and will become more flavorful without developing any bitterness. Also, the more nuts you use, the quicker the infusion will be.
As always, the best approach is to periodically taste as it progresses.
Fat-Washing, and Removing the Solids
Infusing nuts utilizes a technique known as fat washing, which is infusing alcohol with any kind of fat or oil. This is responsible for some of the more outlandish flavors to ever make their way into a cocktail. The most famous of which is probably the bacon-infused bourbon in the Benton’s Old Fashioned at PDT.
I won't go into too much detail on this topic now, mainly because I feel like I have a lot more to learn about it. Here are the basics: the fatty/oily ingredient - or just the fat/oil itself - are combined with the alcohol and infuse for a few hours up to a few days. The soluble fat molecules dissolve into the ethanol, bringing their flavor with them, but naturally, larger globs of fatty molecules are left behind even after any solids are removed/strained out. These are then removed by putting the infusion in the freezer for 12 hours or so, which freezes the fat/oil. The infusion can then be run through a coffee filter to clarify it. Or, if there is a lot of fat, it will be concentrated into a solid puck (yummy!) which can be removed by hand.
In the case of nuts, there won’t be a ton of oil, perhaps just a thin layer on the surface of the infusion. You can remove this by using the freeze and strain method mentioned above. Or you can just ignore it and give the bottle a shake. Personally, it doesn’t bother me too much.
Toasted Hazelnut-Infused Bourbon
1 cups blanched hazelnuts
2 cups bourbon - preferably 90-100 proof.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the hazelnuts out on a baking pan.
Toast the hazelnuts for 8-10 minutes, or until they are pleasantly fragrant and turn a light brown. Keep an eye on them. Once they start to turn dark brown they'll quickly burn.
Combine the hazelnuts and bourbon in a covered container and infuse at room temperature for a minimum of 3 days. At this point the infusion is usable, but leave the nuts in and let the infusion continue for at least a week, it will become increasingly flavorful.
Note: Speeding up Infusion Time
If you use equal parts hazelnuts and bourbon and combine them right after the hazelnuts come out of the oven the infusion will be ready in 24 hours! The only downside to this is you need to use more nuts, which can get expensive.
More Hazelnut Bourbon Cocktails
Hazelnut bourbon has lots of tasty applications beyond the Log Cabin. It plays particularly well with milk, cream, coffee and baking spices - which of course is how hazelnut is typically utilized in coffee shops and candy products. Here's one of my favorite cocktail examples:
This is another one of mine from Clover Club's, it's on the brunch menu. It makes for a very tasty dessert cocktail too. As you can see, it's pretty much a White Russian with the hazelnut bourbon instead of vodka. Vanilla syrup is easy enough to make but adding a dash of vanilla extract does the trick too. This drink is great over crushed or cracked ice, if you have access to it.
1½ oz toasted hazelnut-infused bourbon
¾ oz whole milk or ½ oz heavy cream
½ oz Coffe Liqueur
¼ oz vanilla syrup, or simple syrup with a dash of vanilla extract
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a rocks or wine glass over fresh ice.
1 vanilla bean
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Split the pod in half and chop into pieces. Combine ingredients in a pot over medium heat, stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Let sit at room temperature overnight, then strain and refrigerate.