Bartender Challenge 

We pick the ingredient, you make the cocktail. This month: Sweet potato casserole.

click to enlarge food48_bartender_challenge_1.jpg

Ash Daniel

Bartender: TJ’s Joseph Weindl
Challenge ingredient: Sweet potato casserole

It’s a standard on most holiday tables. Although I have no hard evidence, I imagine that the minimarshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole was some clever mother’s way of tricking her children into eating at least one vegetable that was part of the feast. We asked for a more adult version from Joseph Weindl, a bartender at TJ’s Restaurant at the Jefferson. “I thought initially that this was going to be a vodka drink,” he says, “but bourbon complemented and made the sweet-potato flavor more subtle.”

The verdict: This cocktail is less in-your-face vegetal, with the salty-nutty rim highlighting a sweetness that goes down easily (too easily?) and tastes like a much better version of the holiday classic that even sweet-potato haters will love. Weindl will be serving the cocktail at TJ’s throughout Thanksgiving weekend.

click to enlarge ASH DANIEL
  • Ash Daniel

Not Your Mother’s Sweet Potato Casserole

2 ounces roasted sweet-potato-infused Virginia bourbon (see below)
3/4 teaspoon roasted sweet potato and brown sugar purée (see below)
Toasted pecan paste (See below)
Minimarshmallows, about a handful

Gently mash the rim of a cocktail glass in the pecan paste, making sure it's coated generously. Shake together the infused bourbon and sweet potato purée and strain into the pecan-rimmed cocktail glass. Garnish with a spoonful of brûléed minimarshmallows. Reminisce about Grandma.

Roasted Sweet-Potato-Infused Bourbon

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
500 milliliter Virginia bourbon

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Dice the sweet potatoes into small cubes and then roast for 30 minutes, until the corners of the cubes are slightly charred and the inside is tender.

Combine the roasted sweet potatoes with bourbon in a large container with a lid and store in a cold, dark location. Shake daily, for 5 days. With a coffee filter, strain the potatoes from the bourbon and save the them for ...

Bourbon-Soaked Roasted Sweet Potato and Brown Sugar Purée

3 cups brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups hot water
Bourbon-soaked sweet potatoes

Combine the hot water with brown sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. In blender, combine the brown sugar syrup with the bourbon-soaked sweet potatoes, and purée until silky-smooth.

Toasted-Pecan Paste

Pecans, about a handful
White sugar, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste

Preheat the broiler on high. Place a handful of pecans on a baking sheet and roast carefully. You want them just bordering on burned, but watch carefully. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the pecans into a fine paste, cave-man style. Add white sugar and kosher salt to taste, mixing with a fork.

Brûléed Minimarshmallows

While the oven is still hot, roast a handful of minimarshallows, watching carefully. Allow to cool.


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