One for Rudolph, two for me. This is one of my most whimsical recipes and one that is perfect to make with your kids the day before Christmas eve. Basically, the kids make herbal sugar cubes for Rudolph and you get amazing sugar cubes for an old-Fashioned cocktail. It’s a rather fun project for all and one that the adults can enjoy long after Santa is gone. The recipe is super easy. It assumes you have some general herbs around the holidays for cooking. Herbs, sugar and ice cube trays are really all that’s needed outside a few drops of water.
Herbal Sugar Cubes
This recipe is versatile and fun, as the herbs and spices can be altered to taste. I chose these because they work really well in an old fashioned cocktail, but I make these cubes generally with various herbs and spices per my whimsy at the time. Let your kids play and even enjoy a kiddy fashioned cocktail. The most important part of the recipe is to make sure you don’t add too much water.
Makes several cubes depending on ice cube tray size
¼ teaspoon chopped super fine rosemary leaves
¼ teaspoon chopped super fine purple or green sage leaves
¼ teaspoon chopped super fine pineapple sage (optional)
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon orange zest
½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper (I use long pepper)
¾ cup turbinado sugar
2 drops Grapefruit Cardamom Bitters
1 teaspoon ice cold water
Combine the rosemary, sage(s), zests and pepper in a medium bowl with the sugar. Rub the mixture together with your fingers, pulverizing the herbs, zest and pepper into the sugar. The sugar will turn a greenish hue from the herb oils. Add the bitters and water and stir. The sugar should be slightly moistened and still crumbly, not wet.
Using a sugar cube mold or an ice cube tray mold, place 1 heaping teaspoon in each mold and press the mixture down tightly into the mold. If using an ice cube tray, the sugar cubes will be bigger and thinner than the traditional cube. Let the molds air-dry on your kitchen counter overnight, at least 16 hours. Once they have hardened, gently remove them from the molds, using a butter knife to assist. Store them in an airtight container for months.
Liberal Old Fashioned with DIY Herbal Sugar Cubes
An Old Fashioned is essentially just whiskey sweetened, seasoned and diluted. Yet everyone has their own firm idea on the details. I have a super liberal take on the topic and mine is herbalized. The act of making your own sugar cubes and paying attention to the details, from start to finish, feels like self-care. It’s not only easy but adds creative flair, and it’s a great conversation piece. Let your party guests make their own Liberal Old Fashioned and find out. Make the sugar cubes a day ahead. If you don’t have big ice cube molds any ice will do.
I use Charbay’s Doubled & Twisted Whiskey. The citrus notes in the whiskey persuaded me to use the lemon peel instead of the old-fashioned orange peel. I also like using Sonoma Distilling Co, Cherrywood Rye Whiskey.
1-2 Herbal Sugar Cubes
3 drops Grapefruit Cardamom Bitters (Monarch Bitters)
Splash of water
2 ounces whiskey
Big Cube ice cube
Lemon twist or peel
For each Old Fashioned
Place one or two Herbal Sugar Cubes on the bottom of a rocks glass. Drop a few bitters on top and gently muddle them until the sugars are dissolved. Add a tiny splash of water to help. You want the sugar to be smooth and paste-like, rather than swimming in water.
Fill the glass with a few large ice cubes. Add the whiskey and gently stir until well combined. Express the oil of a lemon peel over the glass and gently run it around the rim. Drop the peel and a sage leaf, stem side down, into the glass.