My best advice about cocktails is to view the classics not as a recipe, but as a formula. This is especially true of my favorite cocktail: the Old Fashioned. The formula for this classic is easily explained by the title of Derek Brown's book, Spirits, Sugar, Water, Bitters (excellent book for history and cocktail recipes!). I am always looking to craft twists on this evergreen classic and with summer almost here, I want to create a s'mores bourbon drink. Call it kismet, but fellow Bourbon & Banter contributor Matt Evans also had the same idea, and thus, the Kentucky Campfire was born!
As a little peek into the creative process, Matt and I went back and forth to pinpoint which ingredient would best fit with each core flavor of the s'more. We settled on graham cracker infused bourbon, toasted marshmallow simple syrup, and chocolate bitters. The result is both indulgent and refreshing. This is not a porch pounder kind of summer sipper, but rather fit for a cozy nightcap or liquid dessert. This one also requires some preparation, but it is well worth it.
So light up your fire pit, get your mixing glasses ready, and let's get cocktailing!
Graham Cracker Infused Bourbon
- 1 750ml bourbon (recommend 90-100 proof)
- 1 sleeve honey graham crackers
- 1 large glass jar
Pour the bourbon* into a large glass container with lid. Glass is best for infusions as it does not absorb or impart flavors into the liquid, and is much easier to store, clean, and reuse. Crumble in the sleeve of graham crackers. Let sit overnight (approximately 12 hours). Strain out graham crackers first using a fine mesh sieve, then through cheese cloth. Store in glass container at room temperature (I poured mine back into the empty bourbon bottle - just be sure to label it!).
*You can infuse either half a bottle (375ml) or the full bottle (750ml); if you infuse half the bottle, use half the sleeve of graham crackers.
Optional: add a handful of chocolate chips to the mason jar along with the graham crackers and bourbon.
Toasted Marshmallow Simple Syrup
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups water (make sure you have a little extra)
- 12 large marshmallows or 24 mini marshmallows
Toast marshmallows over a real fire, under the broiler, or using a propane torch. I used the broiler, and placed the marshmallows evenly on a foil covered baking sheet, watching the marshmallows to ensure they did not burn.
Boil 2 cups of water, dissolve in sugar. Once dissolved, stir in toasted marshmallows (the sooner this is done after they are toasted the better) until they melt completely. This may take some time, and adjust heat as needed so it does not foam up too much. Do not leave unattended, as it can boil over. Once marshmallows are fully melted, allow to cool at room temperature. Strain into glass bottle or jar and store in fridge up to 1 month.
The Kentucky Campfire
2 oz Graham Cracker Infused Bourbon
1/4 oz Toasted Marshmallow Simple Syrup
2 Dashes Chocolate Bitters
Toasted Marshmallow (for garnish)
Combine ingredients in mixing glass (or shaker tin). Add ice, stir for 30 seconds. Strain into Old Fashioned glass. Add large ice cube, if desired. Garnish with toasted marshmallow.
Optional: before mixing, torch 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon until it smokes. Cover with Old Fashioned glass to smoke the glass. Allow to fill with cinnamon smoke until you are ready to serve.
Optional: if you're making Kentucky Campfire for a large group, consider combining all the ingredients in advance allowing them to mingle before serving.
Born and raised in the Bluegrass, Erin Petrey has always held an affinity for her home state’s signature spirit: Bourbon. Throughout her world travels (36 countries and counting!), Erin delights in spreading the gospel of Bourbon across the globe, from Spain to Korea and even here at home in the Nation’s Capital, where she also serves President of the Kentucky Society of Washington. She loves helping people find their next favorite bourbon or cocktail. Though bourbon is her first love, gin comes in a close second. Her favorite cocktails are the Black Manhattan, Gin Gimlet, and Aviation. If you see her, be sure how to ask her how to make the perfect Old Fashioned.
Read Erin's full profile.
Born and raised in Newport Beach, California, Matt Evans married a native Kentuckian and has called Louisville home since 2007 – after stops in Washington D.C. and Durango, CO. His love affair with bourbon started as an attempt to learn more about his adopted hometown (and get in good with his in-laws!); the pursuit has developed into a full blown passion. Through the Stave and Thief Society, Matt is certified as an Executive Bourbon Steward. He has certifications from the Filson Historical Society’s Bourbon Academy and the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Academy. He also has served as Master Distiller for-a-day at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience under the tutelage of Artisanal Distiller Charlie Downs.Matt’s day job is instructing 7th grade World Geography, and he is the proud father of two daughters. During the summer, Matt teaches bourbon history courses at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York state. Read Matt's full profile.