Muscadines, particularly the scuppernong variety, are my favorite early fall treat, but they make you work for even the tiniest taste. Eat them out of hand, and you have to chew through their thick, sinewy skins while dodging bitter, slippery seeds. I'm not saying the labor's not worth it, but I suggest putting it to better use by whipping up some scuppernong simple syrup. Why? Cause you'll need it for the following fall cocktail that's (thank goodness) not centered around pumpkins or apples. I give you the Scuppernong-Bourbon Smash. It's sweet and smooth and perfect for sipping on an autumn evening. Plus, it delivers a big dose of muscadine deliciousness with only minimal effort.
Even great writer (and possibly even better drinker) William Faulkner enjoyed adding the flavor of the South's native grape to his toddies. On a recent visit to his home in Oxford, Miss., I learned that the secret ingredient in his mint juleps was a splash of muscadine simple syrup, a substance he called "thin jelly." So do as this literary legend did. Mix up some Scuppernong Bourbon-Smashes.
makes one cocktail
1/4 cup scuppernong simple syrup (recipe below)
1 ounce bourbon
2 to 3 whole scuppernongs, smashed
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 to 2 generous splashes of club soda
Mix together over ice and enjoy.
Scuppernong Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 cups scuppernongs
Place scuppernongs in a small sauce pot with a tablespoon or two of water. Cook gently over medium heat until the scuppernong skins start to soften. Use a wooden spoon or potato masher to pop the flesh from the skins. Remove from heat and pour off almost all the liquid.
In a separate sauce pan, heat the water to boiling and add the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for 3 to 5 minutes while you stir constantly, and then remove from heat. Add the cooked scuppernongs, and let the mixture steep for 20 to 25 minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve and pour into a sealable container. It will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.