Burnt Island Cocktail

This drink was wholly inspired by an aged whisky barrel. When creating a new drink, the inspiration should come from something, and not just the random mixing of fruit juices, which is happening too much lately. Whisky can be intimidating to a new drinker, partially because they usually buy the cheapest stuff and secondly because the modern palate is geared towards sweet, sugary drinks. To overcome some of these issues, this drink was created to ease people into whisky. This drink should not taste very sweet when properly made. In this cocktail the flavours of vanilla, cinnamon and caramel are amplified to make a smooth tasting, approachable drink.

When you read a review or tasting notes for whisky, a number of flavour characteristics are quite common. Many times the flavour will be referred to as spicy, with hints of cinnamon, rich vanilla, nutmeg and mellow chewy toffee. The scent or “nose” will state Caramelized orange, leather and dark chocolate, black honey, and woody notes. Basically, many flavours can be found in whisky, but there tends to be a common thread of specific spices, like vanilla and cinnamon and sweet flavours like caramel.

With that very simple understanding of the flavours in whisky, I decided to amplify them by adding complimentary liqueurs and flavourings. The first ingredient I wanted to add was vanilla. Pure vanilla was very overpowering, even when diluted. After trying a number of vanilla flavoured liqueurs, the one that worked really well was Bols Vanilla. The other good things is that this liqueur is easily found in most stores.

The second flavour I wanted to add was cinnamon, so I bought a bottle of Goldschlager and was met with really poor results. Unlike pure vanilla, the Goldschlager was very sweet and the cinnamon was hidden beneath the sugar. Also, too much sugar does not compliment the flavours of the whisky very well. The solution was to infuse some whisky with real cinnamon. Basically, just soak 3 cinnamon sticks in 300 ml of whisky for a week. You can substitute vodka for the whisky if you wish. The final infusion has a strong cinnamon flavour with a bitter edge.

The final key flavour is dark caramel syrup. You can find out how to make this in the Mixology: Caramel section. The caramel adds a nice smooth mouthfeel without being overly sweet. It also provides a nice dark golden colour when the cocktail is completed.

To make the Burnt Island Cocktail, combine any whisky of your choice, I prefer Forty Creek, the cinnamon infused spirit, Bols Vanilla, a dash of Angostura bitters and ice into a shaker. Shake vigorously. In a rocks or double old fashion glass, fill with fresh ice and add the Perrier or club soda. Strain the cocktail shaker into the glass and enjoy.

The Burnt Island Cocktail was named after a lake in Algonquin Park. The connection was the caramel (burnt sugar). Originally the name was going to be Ceylon, which is the former name of the country of Sri Lanka. Ceylon was a major supplier of the two spices used in the drink, which are cinnamon and vanilla. Ceylon is also the home of true cinnamon and not the more common cassia cinnamon, grown in other countries.

Burnt Island Cocktail

1¼ oz Canadian Whisky
½ oz Bols Vanilla Liqueur
¾ oz Caramel Syrup 
¼ oz Cinnamon Infused Vodka
1¼ oz Soda Water


In a rocks glass packed with ice add the club soda, then shake the remaining ingredients with ice in a shaker and strain into the rocks glass.

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