Mixing It Up with Molasses

Celebrity chef and mixologist Kathy Casey talks about how to sweeten your autumn cocktails with molasses

Mention molasses and the first thing that comes to mind is gingerbread or gingersnaps. But what about using it to sweeten some fall cocktails? Though classic sweeteners like simple syrup, honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup have all been well explored, molasses is relatively uncharted mixological territory.

But the sticky ingredient, a by-product of the sugar-refining process, has complex notes of acidity, bitterness, and sweetness that pair well with brown spirits, baking spices, and autumnal fruits such as pomegranate, apple, and pear.

There are three grades of molasses, each one possessing its own distinct profile. Mild or light molasses, which comes from the initial boiling of the sugar cane, is the sweetest. The second boiling produces dark molasses, which, while still sweet, has a slight bitterness. Blackstrap molasses, from the third boiling, is the thickest, darkest, and most pungent.

I’ve found that the darker the molasses, the more layers of flavor I can incorporate into a drink. In my Boston Spill, a liberal take on the Brandy Alexander, a bit of blackstrap contributes even more richness to the already-decadent cognac, Cointreau, crème de cacao, and cream mixture.

For something bright and citrusy, try my Melaza Punch, which calls for añejo tequila, pineapple juice, orange juice, and light molasses.

You should also pick up some pomegranate molasses, which is ubiquitous in Middle Eastern cuisine. It may not contain any actual molasses (it’s a syrupy reduction of pomegranate juice), but it’s excellent in tipples that include fruit. In my The Alhambra, its subtle tart-and-sweet-ness mingles perfectly with clementine juice and aromatic spiced rum.

So dig that molasses out of your pantry and start fixing drinks!

— Kathy Casey, Liquor.com

Get Kathy Casey's recipes for The Alhambra, the Boston Spill, and the Melaza Punch on Liquor.com.