Pardus' Meyer Lemon Fig Cocktail. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

Michael Pardus’s Meyer Lemon Fig cocktail. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

This is a boldly flavored cocktail created by my chef, Michael Pardus, who teaches the cuisines of Asia at the Culinary Institute of America. Flavors galore—Meyer lemon, vanilla, ginger, American whiskey.

I especially admire the clever use of ginger from a chef who uses it all day long in class (he taught me to peel ginger with a spoon—works great; he sometimes adds fine julienne to the glass to chew on as he sips). All the elements swirl beautifully together (regular lemon juice will work too if you can’t find Meyers). For a light summer cocktail, he tops it off with a couple ounces of seltzer (and maybe an extra splash of whiskey if you’re Chef Pardus). The vanilla, delivered via a simple syrup, and ginger mix beautifully with the whiskey.

I chose Dickel Tennessee sour mash, my boon pal Blake Bailey‘s choice of American whiskey to have on hand (Pardus goes with bourbon, and I wouldn’t say no to rye). The flavor combo is so delicious I prefer it over ice, sans seltzer. Regardless, sparkling or on the rocks, it’s a fabulous cocktail.

Why the name Fig? You’ll have to ask Chef Pardus. In the meantime, enjoy this fine elixir.

Meyer Lemon Fig

  • 4 ounces American whiskey
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla simple syrup (see below)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • Seltzer water and ice as needed or desired
  1. Put whiskey, vanilla syrup, lemon juice, and ginger in a shaker with ice; shake well.
  2. Fill a tall glass with ice, add shaker contents. Add seltzer to fill, and stir.
  3. (Alternatively to steps 1 and 2: Divide ingredients equally between two lowballs, stir, and add ice.)
  4. Rim edge of glass with a piece of cut fresh ginger.

Makes 2 tall sparkly drinks or 2 lowballs.

Vanilla Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons GOOD vanilla extract
  1. Combine the sugar and water, bring to a boil or heat in a microwave to dissolve sugar, and let cool slightly.
  2. Stir in vanilla extract, place in a plastic container, and refrigerate until ready to use. This is also great in coffee or cappuccino.

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© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


17 Wonderful responses to “Friday Cocktail Hour: The Meyer Lemon Fig”

  • Dan

    Damn, now I’ll have to look for him at work and ask him or it’s going to bug me all weekend…

  • Allen

    ” Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in”!

    This one is pure genius, with a riddle.
    The more you have, the more ” fig” makes sense.
    It’s short for drink more and ” figure” it out.
    Slurp!! Goddam!!

  • Allen

    I save my vanilla pods, I put them in a quart mason jar with sugar and shake to flavor the sugar. After a few months it taste like a good vanilla sugar.
    I think Mr Pardus would approve, perhaps even find this to be a superior vanilla simple syrup.
    If not, I’ll start over from scratch, no prolblem!

    • Michael Ruhlman

      He actually offered this method as an alternative!

  • Christopher Neill

    Got a half cross/half joking note from Larry My Editor this AM: “dude, Ruhlman already does it” re: our increasingly frequent Friday cocktail-o-the-week feature.

    This sounds lovely, I’ll have to try it!

  • Wilma de Soto

    WOW! And ALL this time I have been pressing Chef Pardus about “Squid” versus “Red Boat” Fish Sauces. “SMACK! I coulda had a Meyer Lemon Fig Cocktail!”

    Mike Pardus is a great teacher and a culinary master.

  • Paul Kobulnicky

    To approximate Meyer Lemon, just add a SMALL bit of OJ to regular lemon juice.

  • Dave Wright

    Some one gave me a bag of Meyer lemons Friday, so the timing of this post was perfect. I really liked this cocktail. I was skeptical how the flavors would mesh, but everything tied together beautifully.

  • Michael Ruhlman

    I made one tonight sans soda, just rocks, the citrus vanilla with the spice of the ginger is fabulous.

  • Dave May

    I’ve been drinking this every day since the post – even in shot form..Yum.

  • Sonnie Swenston

    I’m going to have one of these – minus the soda, but with a couple of drops of bitters. Just about every cocktail is improved with some kind of bitters.


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