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Happy Hour: Rustic Pear

Wow that swine flu is a momofuku! Actually I'm not sure what I was afflicted with last week, but it was unrelenting. I actually didn't feel completely well until late this morning. So needless to say, I offer apologies again for the absence of Happy Hour last week, and hope to make up for it (and then some) with this week's drink.

The drink I've created for this week is the Rustic Pear. It's evident that having the influenza was an influence on this drink, as it's exactly the type of drink I'd want to sip when under the weather. Unlike most cocktails this is a drink best enjoyed warm--and preferably near a fireplace, preferably among friends. It is the type of warming serum that's soothing to the sick soul.

If you enjoy an Apple Toddy or simply Bourbon and hot apple cider, you should find favor with this one as well. The base spirit is Applejack, an American apple brandy distilled from Apple cider and similar to French Calvados. It's also flavored with a poached pear puree spiced with vanilla and cardamom, with a bit of honey-essenced Drambuie tossed in for good measure. I provide the recipe for a group because 'tis the season for such affairs, and because I think it's best enjoyed in the company of friends--if you're having a dinner party, this drink is best served as a post-prandial offering.

Rustic Pear (approx 6 servings)
1 1/4 cups Laird's Applejack
1 cup poached pear puree (recipe below)
1/2 cup Drambuie
Lemon wedges

Place everything but the lemons in a saucepan or small pot and heat sowly over a low flame (if you turn the heat too high, you'll quickly evaporate the spirit). Ladle into individual mugs, squeeze a bit of lemon juice, and enjoy!

Poached Pear Puree
10-12 ripe pears, peeled and cut into thick slices (I used combination of Bartlett, Red Bartlett, Green Anjou, and Concorde)
Sweet vermouth (enough to cover the pears)
1 vanilla bean
1 tsp ground green cardamom

Grab a saucepan or pot large enough to hold the pears and pour in the sweet vermouth. Slice open the vanilla, scrape out the guts and mix it in the vermouth along with the cardamom. Bring the poaching liquid to a simmer over medium heat. Add the pears, reduce heat to low, and poach until pears are soft, which can take anywhere between 15-30 minutes depending on ripeness, size, and variety of pears used (the key is for the pears to be fully immersed in the poaching liquid). Remove the pears and puree them in a blender until smooth.

At this point you can use the puree immediately or refrigerate for future use. If you're going to refrigerate, simply add a small amount of lemon juice to prevent the puree from browning.

This is a delicious and intensely flavored puree made from poached pears that tastes exactly what you'd expect Autumn to taste like. It tastes great even on its own as an alternative to applesauce. But it is really the key ingredient in this drink so make sure you give this the attention it deserves.

While you can poach your pears in any manner of liquids from coconut milk to beer, I used sweet vermouth as my poaching liquid because I had the end use in mind, as I knew it would add a delicious yet subtle background flavor to the pears when used in the drink. The addition of vanilla bean and green cardamom added a nice touch of warming spice, and would also end up doing their best work in the final drink recipe.

With all the sniffling and sneezing going around it's all the more clear that we are in full-fledged warm-drink season. And I'm all for it, because you can't stay relevant if you're drink is irrelevant to your surroundings, right?

Here's to surviving this winter without any animal viruses! Cheers!

*Got a cocktail question? Hit me on twitter @paystyle, email me at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below!**Paystyle was born in Tehran and grew up in Los Angeles (aka Tehrangeles) before moving to Brooklyn with his wife and co-pilot Vanessa Bahmani. Return every Wednesday for his weekly Happy Hour column.