Not to get too romantic, but quince are one of the foods that really get me excited about the magic of cooking. I can't imagine what a revelation it must have been for the first person who decided to cook the hard, lumpy, inedible raw quince. Although raw quince give off an amazing perfume, they don't reach their full culinary potential until cooked, softening and becoming a deep, rosy hue.
The effort it takes to cook a quince will give you a ton of bang for your buck. Poaching leaves you with tender fruit for a pie or tart (or for spooning over oatmeal or yogurt) and a gorgeous syrup that—you guessed it—is great for cocktails. If you're feeling especially intrepid, you can even save the seeds and cores to boost the pectin in your homemade jams and jellies.
Here's a simple quince syrup recipe to get you started. It adds wonderful floral-tropical flavor to these cold weather drinks.
The Pinkest Gin
I've become a little obsessed of late with pink drinks that buck the "girly-drinks" stereotype. I love the elegant faint rose hue that bitters like Peychaud's give to a drink made with clear spirits (like the classic Pink Gin cocktail). Here, a simple riff on a gimlet is enhanced with quince syrup and a couple dashes of Peychaud's bitters for a bright, fruity, complex pink drink.
Fall Fruit Punch
The hints of pineapple-like flavor in quince—one of the cultivars is even called "pineapple quince''—make it a great candidate for a tiki re-make. In typical tiki fashion, this cocktail has a very fruity, very boozy base made up of pear nectar, quince syrup, and both light and dark rum. A splash of clove and cinnamon-laced allspice dram complements the pear and quince and ties everything together.
The Brandy Alexander, a dessert drink which has a less-than-stellar reputation, is typically a cloying combination of heavy cream, brandy, and creme de cacao. Looking to lighten and brighten up the drink a bit, I ditched the chocolate and added quince syrup. A splash of Frangelico adds a rich nuttiness that is a great foil for the quince.