Maple sugar and peppercorn give the Big Texan cocktail a northern spin


Just as we thought Spring was about to make its appearance, Mr. Winter rolled back in with sub-zero temperatures and a whole lot of wind. Needless to say I'm not having it. 

Many of my acquaintances and colleagues are basking in the sun and smarts of Austin, TX for SXSW and while I have my own little trips south planned out for the near future, it's hard not to be a little envious when the air hurts your face as you shuffle your way to the liquor store. 

At said store, I picked up some staples: bourbon, gin as I wandered the aisles checking out some local offerings. 

What could warm me up but give me a good taste of summer? 

The Big Texan! How à propos! 

The original recipe of the Big Texan, published on the Food & Wine website in 2013, features a simple and delicious blend of grapefruit juice, simple syrup, basil and bourbon. But I couldn't simply recreate the cocktail without trying out a little bit of a winter spin, right?

Cue maple sugar and black peppercorn. 

No, I didn't put them directly in the cocktail. I crafted a simple syrup (and it's so simple) with more complex notes (oxymoronesque) to give the Big Texan a bit more oomph. 

Check it out:

Grapefruit peppercorn simple syrup


  • Two ruby red grapefruits
  • One cup white sugar
  • One cup maple sugar
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorn
  • One small bunch basil

You could also omit the maple sugar and add one cup of white sugar. It's really up to you.


  1. Bring two cups of water and the two cups of white/maple sugar to a boil.
  2. Add the zest of both grapefruits, the peppercorn.
  3. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and add basil. 
  5. Let infuse for 45 minutes to one hour. 
  6. Strain and let cool completely. 

The Northern Big Texan

  • 2 tbsp fresh grapefruit juice (strained)
  • 1 1/2 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz maple grapefruit black peppercorn simple syrup
  1. Chill you glass with ice
  2. In a shaker, combine all of the ingredients
  3. Shake with ice for 20 seconds
  4. Strain over ice
  5. Garnish with basil

Note: If you find the cocktail too strong, a ounce of sparkling water gives it a bit of pop and doesn't mess with the freshness. 

Since we're talking about simple syrup, what are your favourite infusions?