Brad and I started dating in September of 2004. I had seen him around campus before but never had a conversation with him. We sang in the choir together, had a class together, and had likely crossed paths dozens of times in between. Early on in our relationship, we confessed that we were relieved the timing worked out the way it did. In our early college years, we were busy making bad dating choices, getting our hearts broken, and piecing them back together. But in September of 2004, one simple act, which could have meant nothing just months earlier, caused a spark between us. I was walking across campus, headed to the music hall, when a rogue frisbee landed at my feet. Not being much of a frisbee player, I wasn't entirely sure what to do, but I bravely picked up the disc and made a once-in-a-lifetime perfect toss (is that even what it's called?) to this tall, skinny guy with dreamy blue-green eyes and lashes that went on for days. As I went on my way, quietly rejoicing that I didn't make myself look like an idiot, Brad was apparently already sure he wanted to ask me out. I unknowingly made it difficult for him. He tried and tried without any luck because he couldn't get me to stand still long enough to get to the asking-out part of our little chats. And then one day, like a jerk, I asked him out by complete accident like it was no big deal. I didn't even do it on purpose. Brad was understandably frustrated, especially since it wasn't clear that I knew this was going to be a date. It wasn't until I was getting ready to meet up with him that I realized it felt like more than just hanging out with a friend. So, I showered, did my hair, spritzed on some perfume (let's be honest: it was probably some fruity-scented body spray) and headed out the door. We went and saw the show I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (the perfect first-date ice-breaker) and showed up wearing identical outfits: black shirts and jeans. Embarrassingly endearing? Then we enjoyed a late night snack at the campus café and when we parted ways, we were both sporting giddy grins because we hoped this was the beginning of something great.
That was where it all started. And now, when autumn brings that crisp, cool, clean air that I love so much, I remember those early days of falling in love with Brad. We sipped cinnamon-scented hot cider together while working on our homework, took walks around our little college town, and nervously admitted, just weeks after we began seeing each other, that this was love.
This year marks 10 years since Brad and I started dating and it seemed fitting to make a cocktail to celebrate the occasion. The Toasted Pear is simple and sweet with a hint of spice from classic fall flavors like cinnamon and clove. An elegant bruléed pear slice garnishes this playful fall cocktail, though you can use a plain pear slice if you don't have a torch.
If you can, sip this outside with crunchy leaves under your feet, sitting in front of a bonfire, or listening to your favorite fall music (I'm particularly fond of this right now).
The Toasted Pear
Makes 2 Cocktails
For the Toasted Pear Simple Syrup:
- 1 pear, cut into thick slices
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 whole cloves
- 1/4 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon
- 1 cup water
For the cocktail:
- 3 ounces rum
- 1 1/2 ounces toasted pear simple syrup
- 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 2 slices of pear for garnish
For the Simple Syrup:
- To make the simple syrup, put the pear slices, cinnamon sticks, and cloves in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Without disturbing the pear slices, toast them on one side for about 3 minutes or until they begin to turn golden brown. Flip and toast on the second side.
- Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the sugar over the pears and spices and stir until it begins to melt and caramelize just a bit. Carefully add the water and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Continue to simmer for about 5 minutes or until the liquid reduces by about half.
- Pour the syrup through a strainer into a glass jar or liquid measuring cup. Set aside to cool.
For the cocktail:
- Begin by bruléeing the pear slices. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Using a torch, melt the sugar until it is golden and bubbly. Allow to cool slightly.
- While the slices cool, fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the rum, lemon juice and simple syrup and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with a bruléed pear slice.