Vanilla. It’s one of those flavors that’s sublime when done right—can anything beat the scent of a freshly split vanilla bean?—but downright dull in other cases. And we’ve never really been wowed by vanilla in cocktails. That is until we came across Giffard’s Vanille de Madagascar. (Let’s just call it vanilla liqueur.)
Made with vanilla beans from Madagascar, it’s warming and aromatic, and mixes well with just about everything. It melds seamlessly with white spirits like vodka, and amps up the vanilla-caramel notes in aged spirits like bourbon and dark rum. Give it a try in these three original drinks.
Easy: Ginger & Vanilla
The vanilla liqueur itself is plenty sweet and, at an ABV of 20%, reasonably boozy. So if you’re really into vanilla, there’s no need to add a spirit; we found that sharp, spicy ginger beer was the perfect complement. A little squeeze of lime is all it needs.
Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine an ounce of vanilla liqueur and four ounces of ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Intermediate: Vanilla Old Fashioned
When dark spirits like bourbon and rum spend time barrel-aging, they pick up lots of color from that barrel, but plenty of flavor, too — including what we think of as notes of vanilla and caramel. Little surprise that vanilla liqueur pairs perfectly with these dark spirits. Dark rum is our favorite of all; with bitters and an orange peel, the duo becomes a perfect Old Fashioned-style cocktail. (A vanilla bean garnish is admittedly an extravagance, but the aromatics you get make it worth every penny.)
Instructions; In a mixing glass with ice, combine two ounces of dark rum, half an ounce of vanilla liqueur, and a quarter-ounce of simple syrup. Add two dashes of Angostura bitters. Stir until very well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with an orange peel, twisting it over the top of the surface of the glass before adding; if you’re feeling fancy, garnish with a fresh vanilla bean, maybe with a lime peel wrapped around it. (It’s worth it just for the burst of vanilla aroma when you stick your nose in there.)
Advanced: Creamsicle Fizz
Vanilla + orange = Creamsicle. And it turns out that, when made right, a grown-up Creamsicle is really, really delicious. We’re using egg white, which gives the drink a light, silky texture perfect to support this sweet, nostalgia-inducing flavor pairing. Vodka is the perfect spirit, since it all but disappears.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker without ice, combine an ounce of vodka, an ounce of vanilla liqueur, 3/4 ounce of fresh orange juice, 1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice, 1/4 ounce simple syrup, and one egg white. Shake all that up without ice to aerate it — that’s called a “dry shake” — and then add ice and shake again for a “wet shake,” to chill it down. Strain into a tall glass with no ice, and top with an ounce of club soda. Garnish with a few thin orange slices and an orange peel.
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