How To Choose The Best Figs For Infusing Bourbon

Some would say bourbon is best enjoyed in isolation with nary a drop of water or dash of mixer to adulterate the flavor the distiller intends to impart. Others enjoy a dram of water to loosen the flavor or even a bit of Italian vermouth and some bitters stirred with ice to make a fine Manhattan. There are no right or wrong ways to enjoy bourbon, but there are some overlooked ones. Perchance at the top of the list would be infusing bourbon before imbibing. Spices make a fine addition as do fruit, and one of the best accents can be found in the humble fig. The sweet syconium has flavors that match the corn-based spirit, each amplifying and accentuating the other.

But figs are no monolith, so deciding which variety to use can be a conundrum. While fresh figs are delicious, the mild flavor they present is best left for consuming solo, so eliminate them from the pile. That leaves the more concentrated flavor of dried figs of which there are still several flavors. Black Mission figs offer a deep and ruddy flavor that is potently sweet. Turkish figs are a bit milder, but packed with a fruity flavor. Such a diversion of flavors offers a delicious opportunity: Use both. The bourbon takes on a complex flavor profile that amplifies its natural sweetness while adding subtle fruit notes that round out the overall taste.

Use every part of your fig bourbon

The process for infusing the bourbon is about as simple as you imagine. Dice the figs, using about double the amount of mild Turkish figs as you do the more intense black Mission figs. That should come to about a quarter pound of Turkish figs to an eighth of a pound of black Mission figs per bottle of bourbon. Combine them all in a large glass vessel and seal tightly before storing the jar for about a week. Make sure that you stir or shake the vessel at least once a day to ensure the figs make as much contact with the bourbon as possible. At the end of the week, strain the fig-infused bourbon through either cheesecloth or a coffee filter to remove the fig particles.

Now that you have fig-infused bourbon at hand, the question becomes how to enjoy it. Neat or on the rocks are both fine choices, and either would be evermore accented by a bite of fig on the side. The spirit, though, performs ably in a cocktail, from a figgy spin on a classic bourbon old fashioned to something more pointed, such as an addition to our "When Figs Fly" cocktail. And don't toss those macerated fig bits, either. They can be used in myriad ways, from accenting your cocktails to punching up baked goods with a bit of fruity, bourbon flavor.