Rouge Anyone? Repurposing Oxidized Wine

My liquor collection is a monstrosity. Over a year ago I changed apartments and discovered that I had amassed a collection that filled over 35 liquor boxes. And that is not counting the assorted glassware, tools, spare bottles, and cocktail books that I own. Unfortunately, there are pitfalls of growing such a collection--a fact I was made aware of when I started packing up bottles. In the very back of one cabinet I discovered an open bottle of Lillet rouge. The bottle was dusty and who knew how long it had been sitting there in that dark corner, oxidizing steadily with each passing hour. Obviously, it was ruined. In the haste of packing I simply shoved it into a box to be dealt with later. But when I was unpacking I rediscovered it, and for some reason I chose not to dump it down the drain. Perhaps it could still be useful.

Inspiration arrived soon enough. While out on the town one night, I overheard someone referring to the New York Sour. This drink is just your basic whiskey sour with a float of dry red wine--usually a Syrah or a Malbec. At that moment, however, I thought back to my poor ruined Lillet. And while there was no way to use the product as is to top off a sour, I started wondering what would happen if I made the Lillet rouge into a syrup? Then I started wondering how it would taste if I mulled the wine first to help cover up the oxidized flavor. If a wine-topped whiskey sour works so well, and it does, why not use a spiced wine syrup instead of the wine and simple syrup components? I wasn't sure if the Lillet would even make a good syrup, oxidized as it was. An experiment seemed to be a better solution than just dumping the contents. And I am glad that I did.

Acela Sour

2 ounces of bourbon
1 ounce lemon juice
1 ounce Lillet syrup
1 scant dash simple syrup
1 egg white

Dry shake ingredients with the coil of the Hawthorne strainer. Add ice and shake again. Strain ingredients into a chilled old-fashioned glass.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Buffalo Trace bourbon.

Cocktail Geekery: In truth this is really a cross between the Boston Sour and the New York Sour. Boston Sours are notorious for their inclusion of egg whites. They can of course be left out, just make sure to double check the sweet-sour balance before adding the egg whites. The creaminess of the whites tames sourness. if more sweetener is required, correct, if necessary, with plain simple syrup. The Lillet syrup is dryer and more bitter and will only further upend the balance.

Mulled Lillet Syrup

3-5 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 large orange peel
1 cup Lillet
1 cup sugar
1 ounce overproof vodka

Crush cinnamon sticks and cloves. In a small saucepan add spices, peel and Lillet and heat over low for about an hour. Strain Lillet into a measuring cup. Add sugar in equal measure. Whisk until no granules appear at the bottom of your bowl. Let resulting syrup cool to room temperature, and add vodka (or other overproof spirit) to preserve. Store in the refrigerator.

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