Smoky Orange + Maple Old Fashioned [featuring Highspire Whiskey]

Ever see that clip from Parks and Recreation when Ben Wyatt drinks whiskey? (Click here if you haven't.) That used to be me, but as I've learned more about it, tasted a number of varieties and experimented with whiskey-based cocktails, I've come to absolutely love it.

The hubs and I tend to opt for bourbon or Scotch most of the time, so when I had the chance to try Highspire, a rye whiskey, I was intrigued. Rye was at the forefront of American palates before the Prohibition, but declined afterwards as bourbon took over. Fortunately as of late, there's been a movement to revive the beverage, and rye whiskey is coming back into vogue.

The grain mixture for rye whiskey typically has to be made from at least 51 percent rye and the whiskey is aged in new charred oak barrels. Highspire, on the other hand, is made from 100 percent rye and aged in California wine barrels for a relatively short period of time. Despite the whiskey's young age, the wine barrels impart rich notes of vanilla and fruit. It's a rye whiskey that gives a nod to its pre-Prohibition past while also bringing something unique to the table.

Similarly, this Smoky Orange + Maple Old Fashioned is about putting a creative twist on a classic. It has the same basic components as a traditional Old Fashioned (sugar, bitters and rye). However, this version uses maple syrup and orange bitters (instead of the usual Angostura). I've also added a smoky kick with a little liquid smoke and a flamed orange peel - which by the way is one of my new favorite bartending tricks. If you've never flamed and orange peel, it's super fun to play around with - because who doesn't like playing with fire? (Click here for a video on how to do it.)

Are you a whiskey drinker? What are your favorite ways to enjoy this classic beverage?

Smoky Maple + Orange Old Fashioned
Makes 1 cocktail

1 teaspoon maple syrup
2-3 dashes orange bitters
2 drops liquid smoke*
2 ounces Highspire Whiskey
Flamed orange peel (use a piece slightly larger than the size of a quarter)
Ice (preferably a large whiskey ice cube)

In an Old Fashioned glass, add the maple syrup, orange bitters and liquid smoke. Add the ice cube and stir a few times. Pour in the whiskey. Stir gently.

Flame a piece of orange peel, rub the peel around the rim of the glass and drop it in the cocktail. (Alternatively, serve the cocktail with a small orange slice.)

*If you have access to a handheld smoker, skip the liquid smoke and follow this method instead.

I was provided with a bottle of Highspire Whiskey for review. All opinions are 100% my own, and I only feature products I truly enjoy.