Been absent from blogging for a while, but I’m back with a toast to Fall. Honestly, here, the fall season isn’t much different from the rest of the year. The surf’s a little bigger, and in our apartment, it actually gets HOTTER, not cooler. That’s about it.

But I like to pretend that we have real seasons too, so I do things like buy cute winter-y coats and get sad I can’t wear them. (I have to draw the line at making hot chocolate, though, which kinda pisses me off because I bought this awesome-sounding hot chocolate mix a couple weeks ago, and now the weather’s too sweaty to enjoy it. Grr. Argh.)

I also like getting into seasonal flavors (although much of the stuff I see in food magazines isn’t available here, or is far from cheap, although supposedly in abundance in the rest of the country). This cocktail is an original creation, called The Hibernating Bear and it is full of things bears like to eat to fatten up for the winter: berries, nuts, honey…bourbon. If you ask me, I think bears are probably whiskey* guys. Rum, maybe; vodka, definitely not; tequila, perhaps, but only for the more disreputable ursine fellows.

*Bourbon being a type of whiskey, for those of you who, like me, always get confused between the two.

Sugar’s Hibernating Bear with Whiskey Pear Tart. © Sugar + Shake

But I digress. This drink is served slightly warm and leaves a toasty feeling in your tummy. It’s also intended to be accompanied by a slice of Whiskey Pear Tart (from the Baked Explorations cookbook).

Because of the rich color of the Blackberry Honey Syrup (and the mound of whipped cream on top), you might think this is an outrageously sweet dessert drink. I promise you, it is not. The bourbon packs a kick, and the berries add a tart taste that counters the sweetness of the honey. It was very popular with the manly men-types who attended the cocktail party where I debuted this drink. (The Whiskey Pear Tart is also a big favorite with guys, and is only a touch sweet, too. I like to deviate from the recipe and add a layer of chopped dark chocolate onto the crust before putting down the almond filling.)

Feel free to experiment with different nut liqueurs for your own take. I also plan on trying out a version using Bärenjäger honey liqueur…if it EVER cools down in here, that is.

Sugar’s Hibernating Bear

  • 1 oz. bourbon or whiskey
  • ¾  oz. Frangelico
  • ¼ – ½ oz. Blackberry Honey Syrup (to your taste; depending on your berries, this may be more or less tart)
  • Frangelico Whipped Cream

Heat Blackberry Honey Syrup (a quick spin in the microwave will do); it should be drinkably warm, not boiling hot, and easy to pour. Combine with bourbon and Frangelico. Stir well. Top with Frangelico Whipped Cream.

Blackberry Honey Syrup

  • 1 clamshell box of blackberries (or 6 oz. frozen blackberries)
  • 1 cup honey

Simmer blackberries in honey over medium heat until they begin to get soft and mushy. Remove from heat. Smash blackberries thoroughly. Strain through mesh sieve to get rid of seeds. It’s OK to press on the mash; pulp is perfectly acceptable. Discard seeds. Store syrup in refrigerator. Great not just in cocktails, but on ice cream, pancakes and other dessert or breakfast items.

Frangelico Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup cold heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Frangelico

Notes: It is often very hot in our house, so I sometimes put the mixing bowl in the fridge before whipping to keep it and the cream cold during the whipping process. Also, this recipe is meant for topping a cocktail, so I keep the sugar to a minimum. If you would like a sweeter whipped cream, for a dessert perhaps, you can double the amount to 2 tablespoons. Keep in mind that Frangelico is already a touch sweet.

Whip cream until soft peaks begin to form. Add sugar and Frangelico. Continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Store in refrigerator.

Sugar’s Hibernating Bear — full of all the things bears like to eat: honey, berries, nuts, uh...bourbon. Bourbon, Frangelico, Blackberry Honey Syrup, topped with Frangelico Whipped Cream. Serve by heating the honey syrup and adding to the bourbon (drink should be warm when served). © Sugar + Shake

As a related aside, this is the one and only live wild bear I (and Shake) have ever encountered.

He’s a “baby” that was digging in a dumpster outside a motel we stayed in when we passed through Trinidad, Colo., the one-time sex change capital of the world. (It’s true. I’ll wait while you Google it.)

We were eating dinner, and the waitress casually says, “Oh, if you want to see a baby bear, there’s one out back in the dumpster.” A bear! A bear! …if you got that reference, a) you’re really, really geeky and b) I kinda dig you. Also, c) I’m sorry I brought it up. Out back by the dumpster I nervously clicked away (with an entire parking lot and several large 2-ton pickup trucks between us) and then realized that the infrared focus beam was attracting the bear’s attention. Time to go inside! (“Why is he so small and green?” asked my mother when we showed her the photos. Uh, ‘cause I like my limbs attached and wasn’t about to take my eyeballs off that bear to adjust my white balance and change lenses, Ma.)

Don’t mess with the bears.