His partner in crime was Tim Weigel, chief mixologist for the Hakkasan Group. Together at the Las Vegas Searsucker at Caesars Palace, they experimented with an Oaxaca Old Fashioned with mezcal, a Cream Soda Old Fashioned and a Leather-Aged Old Fashioned that was "a little too strange," according to Alexander. A Candy Cane Old Fashioned was proposed as a seasonal cocktail, while a S'mores Old Fashioned "worked out really good" and could resurface as a special down the line.
A spicy Hot n' Bothered Old Fashioned made the cut, but things got really fun with the introduction of a PB&J Old Fashioned, inspired by Smucker's Peanut Butter and Jelly Uncrustables sandwiches. "My daughter always has a huge box in the freezer, and I'll take one every once in a while," says Weigel. "I thought, 'You know what? This would make a pretty good drink somewhere.'"
The cocktail combines peanut-infused Maker's Mark bourbon with muddled strawberries, fassionola syrup (more on that soon), and a mixture of orange bitters and house-made strawberry tincture. The drink is stirred with ice then double-strained to avoid having any bits of strawberry floating around. Served on ice with a strawberry slice, the cocktail’s garnish is, of course, a quarter-slice of an Uncrustable.
"We had a hilarious conversation about the garnish itself," says Alexander. "Are we going to make this in-house? We wanted to be as 'craft' as we could. But we figured, it's an Uncrustable; it's great."
Fassionola, a syrup traditionally used in tiki drinks or classic New Orleans-style Hurricanes, was supplied by Cocktail & Sons, which makes it with Louisiana strawberries and tropical fruits. "I looked around. A lot of syrups were too fruity or too sweet," says Weigel. "This one just hit all the marks."
Making the PB&J Old Fashioned is relatively simple, but takes a bit of prep work. "For the peanut-infused whiskey, you're just going to chop some peanuts up, put them in a container of some kind, add your whiskey and let it infuse for three days," Weigel explains. "Fine strain it out and the whiskey is good to go."
The team considered rye, but decided bourbon would complement the sweetness of the cocktail rather than counteract it. The spirit is also a good match for the peanut infusion. "You have a nice body from the oils," add Weigel. "It just goes really well with the bourbon."
With Searsucker's new cocktail menu in place, the PB&J Old Fashioned is now a big seller.
"People love it," says Alexander. "We sell a ton of these."
The Peanut Butter and Jelly Old Fashioned… By the Bottle
There's another way to enjoy a similar drink without any need for a bartender. London-based Aske Stephenson produces a line of bottled cocktails that includes a Peanut Butter & Jam Old Fashioned—"jam" being a British preference over "jelly." Just open the bottle, pour over ice and you're good to go.
"We like to call them RTD… ready-to-drink cocktails," says Piotr Jedrzejewski, who is exclusively licensed to manage and distribute the Aske Stephenson brand. "The idea is to produce top quality drinks you could only find in the best, most-creative cocktail bars... in an unpretentious manner with great flavors and no fuss."
The products are based on playful combinations of flavors like the Sesame & Popcorn Daiquiri and a java-inspired Flat White Russian. However, the Peanut Butter & Jam Old Fashioned is the company's flagship creation and consistent top seller, give or take a few seasonal trends. "Last winter, for instance, the Coffee and Cigar Manhattan was a huge hit," says Jedrzejewski. "But the PB&J comes back all the time."
So how's it made? It starts with Skippy peanut butter, a common brand that will always be in easy supply, ensuring that nothing changes in the basic recipe. That peanut butter mingles with McAfee's Benchmark bourbon by Buffalo Trace, infusing for hours, before it takes a trip through a rotary evaporator at low temperatures to secure the flavor. "It's then cut with the original bourbon, because distillation will strip the product of the effect from the aging process a bit," says Jedrzejewski. "So we need to reintroduce it."
They add a house-made raspberry syrup to the mix, along with "a few pinches" of Himalayan sea salt—and that's pretty much it. "Bourbon is the main ingredient, probably 95 percent of the whole equation," says Jedrzejewski.
Unfortunately, Aske Stephenson doesn't have distribution in the United States, but Jedrzejewski is hoping that will change within the year. "I'm a huge fan of American culture and absolutely love America," he says. "I think the Peanut Butter & Jam Old Fashioned would fit there very well."
For now, Americans can order a bottle from online retailers like The Whiskey Exchange, but the shipping charges are high and there may be restrictions to certain states. Otherwise, you can always just book a flight to Las Vegas or San Diego and get the handcrafted version for yourself at Searsucker. Or try your hand at making your own.