Not that we get much fall color (or cool weather) here in Southern California, where it seems to remain a perpetual 72 degrees… But then again, how much more of a need do we have for autumnal cocktails to help convince us of a change in season?
Vocabulary aside (and thanks for indulging my literary self), this is a beautiful cocktail that deserves its own spotlight. The Schrage on Fire has endured at our bar for several seasons, and we keep bringing it back (even off-season… gasp!).
For those of you who have acquired a bottle of St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur, you may have come upon this recipe while searching for ways to use it after your initial bout of spiced-pear old fashioned frenzy. And kudos to you - because this delicious liqueur is an easy-going companion to all sorts of fall and winter drinks. It’s especially gratifying if you’re one of those cocktailians who, like me, just can’t get enough of that flavor profile of impeccably ripe Bartlett pear spiced with cinnamon and clove… I mean, if you’ve got a hankering for fall, just pop open the bottle and breathe deeply (yes, do it at 9AM even), and you’ll be floating on a cloud of whimsy and longing all day.
So have your pumpkin-spiced latte in the morning (or don’t), and look forward to the better big brother of the evening hours: the Schrage on Fire Cocktail.
After finding this recipe on the St. George site and enjoying it for the last year, I finally decided to track down the creator of the cocktail, Lea Madda. I had to know what The Schrage was, and why it was on fire.
Lea created the cocktail about four years ago (2014), while working at Brick & Mortar in Cambridge, MA. She said that since it was the “dead of winter in New England, combining the spiced pear liqueur with some other brown ingredients seemed warm and fitting.” And bravo to her for ingredient improvisation, because she created a winner.
Speaking of bravo’s and improv, Lea lives in Los Angeles now, pursuing theater, musical theater, and on-camera work. After completing her MFA in Acting at UCLA, she’s also co-founded and currently co-produces a new local theater company called the southland company. You can find and follow her on Instagram: @itsleamadda, where her tagline is, “be the chowmein you wish to see in the world” ( 😂)
We love it every time we see creative industries mash up with cocktails - that’s when some of the best stuff happens (after all, we are artists turned barware makers).
So if you’re in the LA area, go get cultured at one of Lea’s events. You can also find her behind the bar at Terroni in Downtown LA, where the cocktail menu is extensive, and the pasta noodles are made from scratch daily. You might even order a Schrage on Fire from the original creator - and that’s a rare opportunity these days.
Oh, and the inspiration behind the name? One of my favorite origin stories ever: “The name of the cocktail is a loving stab at one of my best friends Matt Schrage; we were out the evening before celebrating his birthday in Chinatown. The waiter leaned over the table to light something on fire, I'm guessing a cocktail or spider bowl of some kind. At the perfect moment, Schrage inconveniently swung his arm out and his cuff caught on fire for a couple of seconds. We haven't let him live it down since.”
Nor will we, Matt Schrage - you’ve been memorialized forever in cocktail lore, and every time I enjoy one of these bright, boozy beverages, I’ll have a glimpse of your arm aflame in the corner of my mind. Applause!
The Cocktail: The Schrage on Fire
1 1/2 oz Bourbon
Break out the Bourbon! Lea calls for Elijah Craig 12 year in her original recipe, which is a fantastic bourbon. Feel free to use what you have on hand - for us, that was Basil Hayden (which, incidentally, also photographs really well for you cocktail craftsmen nerds out there)…
1 oz Spiced Pear Liqueur
The one ingredient that you can’t do without for this cocktail is the St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur. We love St. George, a craft distillery just outside of San Francisco. They turn out excellent spirits, fruit brandies, liqueurs and other goodies, including the Bruto Americano we featured in one of our “Amaro Love” blog posts on the Negroni. Trust me, get a bottle of the Spiced Pear Liqueur - you won’t regret it.
1/2 oz Averna
Averna is a well-rounded amaro (an herbal, bitter Italian liqueur) that’s both sweet and silky as well as bitter and citrusy. Amari add wonderful complexity to cocktails, and Averna is one of the most popular and readily available brands. Feel free to explore using other amari in this cocktail, especially if you have one on hand already. Here’s our round-up on Italian Amari: What is Amaro All About?
Cocktail-Making Tips & Tricks
Add all ingredients to the Mixing Glass, and fill with ice. You’ll want the ice to more than cover the amount of liquid in the glass; the idea is to have much more ice than liquid, so there’s enough chilling power that it doesn’t start melting into a mess right away. Stir that baby up until the Mixing Glass is chilled on the outside, then strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.
You can also serve this like an Old Fashioned, in a rocks glass with ice. The bigger the piece of serving ice you use, the less this cocktail will dilute as you drink it, so if you can get your hands on (or make) a giant rock for this cocktail - do it!
Lea’s original recipe doesn’t call for a garnish, but we thought the orange peel was both beautiful and aromatic, and paired well with the citrus notes of the Averna, and the autumnal fruit-cidery flavors of the Spiced Pear Liqueur. Rather than just dunking the citrus peel in the cocktail, first hold it in your fingers to the side of the glass and express its citrus oils over the surface of the cocktail by squeezing the peel gently. A fresh orange works best; position the peel so the outside is facing the glass, and the pithy inside is facing you.
Thanks Lea for this gift that keeps on giving - and Schrage, watch out for those flames.
Cheers to all!
About Standard Spoon Barware
We (Rachel Eva & Shawn Michael) are a two-person creative team. We make barware for artists, lovers, and craftsmen - and anyone that loves the art and craft of cocktail making. You can find more of our story here: Our Story.