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Third-place winner in Imbibe's Metaxa Cocktail Competition, April 2009. This pretty and creative cocktail is packed with flavor, and though it's light enough to drink in warm-weather months, it's also a perfect winter/holiday cocktail.
1 1/2 oz. Metaxa 7-Star brandy
1 1/2 oz. coffee-fig elixir (recipe below)
Tools: shaker, strainer
Shake Metaxa and coffee-fig elixir in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into chilled glass. Slit grape and place on rim for garnish.
1 cup high-quality fresh-roasted, hot-brewed coffee (Houghtaling uses Gimme! Ethiopian)
1 cup dried whole mission figs with stems removed
1/2 teaspoon cloves
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup water
Simmer figs, fresh-brewed coffee and cloves over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Mash figs with back of spoon after simmering. Add brown sugar and water. Heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat. Allow to cool then strain crushed figs out with a sieve and store.
Leah Houghtaling, Felicia's Atomic Lounge, Ithaca, N.Y.