Saffron Twists on Old Classics

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. You may not have seen it before, as it doesn’t quite look like it could be food. yellow perfection It looks like tiny little strands that are picked by HAND, one by one, ever so delicately like the teeny little flowers that they are. You would know however if you had something saffron-flavoured because those tiny little strands stain food a very bright yellow. Saffron is common in middle-eastern cooking and its taste is hard to describe. It’s not a strong flavour and yet its subtlety still enhances a typically bland dish (e.g. white rice) into something more extraordinary. Or, perhaps everyone is just captivated by the way it tints everything a VERY BRIGHT YELLOW. 

Being the freak-spice-food navigator that I am, I wanted to know what kind of drinks that a saffron syrup would go well with. I had many results to my Google search, but none really striked my fancy or were that yummy to make (one example was adding it to a gin & tonic – changed the flavour almost 0%). So, I made some syrup and started experimenting.

But first! The saffron syrup recipe:
The threads which were strained outCombine equal parts water and white granulated sugar into a pot at low heat (about a “3”). I used 3/4 cup water and sugar and added the sugar slowly until it dissolved. Once dissolved, I added about 30-35 saffron threads. Cook gently for about 15 minutes or until the mixture gently bubbles. Once it bubbles, let it do that for about 3 minutes and then set aside to cool. Strain and add to a container of your choice (I use mason jars that are 1 cup and it makes about 1 cup of syrup).

Now that you have your yummy saffron syrup, here are two twists on some classics. One warm and one cold; both taste very different but do add a wonderful flavour to these cocktails that may not be distinctive but will be noticed.

Saffron Hot Toddy:
– 2 oz bourbon/whiskey or blended Scotch
– 0.5 oz lemon juice
– 0.5 oz saffron syrup
– hot water
Mix the components together and add the hot water at the end. Bada bing bada BOOM.
Choose whichever bourbon or blended Scotch that you like. Don’t choose something expensive as the sugar will dampen the flavour of the spirit (which should be enjoyed neat, anyway). I had my first hot toddy with Ballantine’s blended Scotch which was like a punch to the face. But I loved it. I’ve had it with a peaty Scotch which I personally did not feel added to the flavour of the cocktail and ruined a perfectly good Scotch. I’ve used Wild Turkey 81 and so far, that’s been my favourite. (yes, I did also post a recipe for a pear hot toddy before – if you are finding this too repetitive, use some amber rum instead – add a pad of butter on top and some “holiday” spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves and now you have saffron hot buttered rum!)
This drink goes well with winter, tucked into a coffee tumbler for secret drinking. Because when it’s -20C outside, you won’t care! You are equipped with liquid sunshine!!

Saffron Amaretto Sour:
– 2 oz amaretto (I recommend DiSaronno)
– 1 oz lime juice
– 0.5 oz saffron syrup
– 1 egg white
Add all the components into a cocktail shaker with ice and pour into a sugar-rimmed rocks/Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with lime twist if desired.
This is also the less sweet version. If you like cocktails that give you cavities like I do, decrease the lime juice by 0.5 oz and increase the saffron syrup by 0.5 oz. A nice little dessert to end your dinner with.


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