Apple cider brings me back to my childhood in New England. Or rather, it brings me back to unrealistic longings of days gone by. It is true, you can’t seem to throw a rock without hitting an apple orchard there. Especially if you hail from Rhode Island, where you can’t throw a rock without hitting Massachusetts or Connecticut either (it’s a really small state). My grandparents lived near an orchard. My aunt and uncle HAVE an apple orchard. Cider was just synonymous with Fall. Now I have to deal with 90°F and over temps through October in Los Angeles. The only saving grace of it all is not having to deal with deicing my car come January anymore (please don’t throw rocks at me).
Being an adult means I’ll always have conflicting feelings about my childhood. All those sweet memories of riding around on the back of a wagon in a corn field, and there’s the actual reality of having to go to school and being told what to do and all the unpleasantness of being a kid that I tend to forget about. One thing that I don’t have any conflicting feelings about is making this cocktail. So let’s do that!
In a medium saucepan, combine cider, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and black pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Keep at a simmer, uncovered, until reduced by 3/4, and consistency is viscous like maple syrup, about 2 hours. Strain and let cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month.
*Note: you can also buy apple cider concentrate if you don’t have the time or if apple cider (*gasp*) is not available in your neck of the woods. Find some here!
For the Cocktail:
2 ounces Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
1 ounce apple cider concentrate syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from about half a lemon
4 ounces hard cider such as Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider
Apple slice or apple chip for garnish (optional)
Combine apple brandy, spiced cider concentrate, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with hard cider. Garnish with apple slice or apple chip if desired.
A small amount of lemon juice not only brightens up the drink, but the acid helps meld the flavors and prevents a sensation of just apple after apple after apple. The result is refreshing, boozy, and a tad dry.
Intrigued by this? This week I teamed up with Dine X Design to create a Fall cocktail to take us from these long, hot Summer days into the (finally!) cooler ones of Fall. Ready to experience the magic of apple cider ice cubes?! Click on over for the full recipe!
So for this year, on the festival of lights, I decided to tweak a recipe I encountered in the Washington Post on Indian beverages. The ingredients might seem a bit out there, but if you’re interested in new flavors, this would be a great place to start. The flavors of India are perfect for many cocktail creations, as they encompass sweet, salty and savory all at once and taste a lot more complex than cocktails you might be familiar with.
Here’s a warning for this drink, not to scare you off, but one ingredient in here, the black salt, might be a bit too much for some of you out there. When you open your container, you will get hit with a great amount of sulphur. That is a flavor component that this adds. Smelly, smelly sulphur. However, if you eat Indian food, you will find this subtly in the background in many dishes, so you might have already tried it before. Here though, if you are terrified of ruining a decent cocktail, or just simply cannot get your hands on it, leave it out. I won’t tell.
Also, the article suggests adding herbs and whole black peppercorns to your ice cubes the day before. This is optional and mainly a decorative element. When the ice cube starts to melt in the drink, be mindful that the peppercorns may be now floating in your beverage and you might unknowingly almost swallow one. I might have just done that. Twice.
You know what is great about making infused booze at home? It’s a lazy man’s project. You just need time (FYI, make a calendar reminder as soon as you start your infusion. No forgetting about it after you stash it in a cool, dark place!) This one might be a bit more involved, but you could also make some great spiced-infused bourbon if the cutting and gutting (is that the correct terminology?) of a pumpkin is not your thing. I understand; knives can be scary.
The recipe falls into two parts. Total time is about 2-3 weeks.
Part the First:
Dehydrate your pumpkin! Why? Dehydrating removes excess moisture from the squash and intensifies the “pumpkin” flavor.
1 organic sugar pumpkin, about 8″ diameter
Heat your oven to 200°F.
Cut your pumpkin in half from stem to bottom. Scoop out seeds (discard, or roast if that’s your thing. Personally I can’t stand them.) and slice into 1/2″ moons.
Spread the slices on a baking sheet and move that to the oven. Wait six hours. Watch if you want occasionally. It’s like the Shrinky Dinks of my childhood.
After 6 hours, turn the slices over. Bake another 6 hours. This will fully dry the slices out for infusion.
Optionally, you can do this in a dehydrator. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Give the container a good swirl to make sure all ingredients are covered with liquid. Stick the jar in a cool, dark place for two weeks.
After two weeks, strain all material out of the liquid using cheese cloth over a fine mesh strainer into a storage container (I reused the Buffalo Trace bottle).
Taste the infusion. You have two options now.
First, you can use as is. Second, bottle and wait an additional week to mellow out the flavor (I prefer the later).
Why would you wait one more week? Right after discarding the solids the flavor of the infusion is quite sharp. Giving the infusion a week to sit let’s the flavors meld and mellow out. But this is entirely up to you. Like it sharp? Start using it now.
What to do with this infusion? Well, for one, you can drink it over ice. It’s pretty much a flavor bomb of Fall smells. The sugar pumpkin has enough sweetness in it that it creates a nice balance with the whiskey. For those of you who want something a little less Fall tasting than just drinking Pimento Dram, this is for you.
I’m going to play with this over the next week or so and see what I come up with for some cocktail suggestions. That gives you some time to start infusing. So get going!
Caramel is boiling sugar. The recipe moves quickly so get all your ingredients together before you start and please, try not to spill it on yourself, it will hurt like hell.
Adapted recipe from The Gourmandise School
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, Plugra is awesome and used here
1 cup heavy cream, room temp
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 tsp fleur de sel, Murray River used here
1 oz. Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Seeds from one vanilla bean, or 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine sugar, water, vanilla seeds (or paste), and lemon juice. Stir once to combine. On medium high heat, cook until sugar dissolves, brushing the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush if sugar crystals stick to the sides. Bring to a boil, undisturbed (do NOT STIR), until sugar reaches a dark amber color. (This can take anywhere between 10-20 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t leave the pan. It will almost always burn if you step away.)
Carefully add the cream. It will bubble and hiss like crazy, but this is normal. Bring back to a boil, then add in butter, salt and bourbon. Stir to combine and until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.
Let cool and then jar up.
Here’s a few notes:
Your sauce is going to look watery at first. Don’t keep cooking it. If you pull a spoon out of the sauce and it leaves a layer, your sauce is thickened. As it cools it will thicken up much more. And once you stick it in the fridge, the next day it’s even more thick.
DO NOT STIR IT WHILE IT COOKS. Just don’t, it will create crystals and it will be grainy and gross.
The bourbon is added at the end, so you will taste it. That is the point of adding it to the sauce. Don’t like bourbon? You can add an aged rum if you like. Or just leave out the booze too if you have to.
Besides the lovely bourbon taste, mainly you are going to get a buttery, salted caramel with hints of vanilla. And you will keep telling yourself, One more spoonful, until there is nothing left.
This month I’ve been playing around with ideas for Mixology Monday, the theme being SMOKE. This seemed like an interesting path to follow and see where it went. I am, in all honesty, still very much amateur status when it comes to all things behind the bar. I’ve definitely broadened my scope of these items over the past few years (like how to say Cynar correctly), but for awhile the idea of tinctures seemed mildly hazy to me. Aren’t these just infusions? Why a separate name?
Well, I read a bit for this post and pretty much what it came down to is that a tincture is the essence of the ingredient you steep in a neutral grain alcohol. It can be used in small amounts by itself, or added with more ingredients for compounds like bitters. Because it is steeped in a high proof alcohol, you don’t shoot it back in a giant gulp. It would also probably taste awful. With an infusion, you are also extracting the essence of what you are putting into the alcohol, but it is co-mingling with the base spirit for a new combined flavor. You might see sour cherry bourbon, lemon lavender gin, something along those lines.
When I think aroma, my mind naturally moves towards perfume. Now, before I lose all you men out there, check this article out from the New York Times last year. The Pegu Club, PDT, these big timers have been using aroma, perfume even, in cocktails for awhile now. Perhaps for us New Wave Cocktail Bloggers this is brand new, but treading into this territory we find the path already laid out for us. So, give perfume a try I guess.
For this particular use of smoke in a cocktail, I didn’t want the drink to continue to be steeped in smoke. What I wanted here was for the initial smell to be a deep, meaty smoke aroma, and then when tasted, you were only getting the cocktail. This beautiful smoky aroma would make the drink a surprise for the person drinking it, hopefully a pleasant shock. The aroma would then dissipate as one continued to finish the drink. I chose a Boulevardier to accompany the smoke aroma.
First, the tincture:
1/2 cup grain alcohol (I have 151 proof everclear)
1/4 cup Lapsang Souchong Loose Tea
Combine the two ingredients in an airtight glass container. Let sit for two weeks in a cool, dark place. Gently shaking every few days. After two weeks, strain with a fine mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth. You want to make sure you are getting all the tiny bits of tea out. If you still see residue, strain an additional time. Store in a dropper bottle.
Lapsang Souchong tea has a heavy smoke aroma. When you open the box it’s like getting hit with a face full of wood smoke. As a tincture, the essence gets meatier (as in smoked meat).
Ok, so, here is the part when you can decide whether getting an atomizer is worth it or not. I tried experimenting with the tincture in 3 ways. First, I rinsed the glass and added the cocktail. Second, I swapped a tincture soaked cotton ball around in inside of the glass after pouring the drink in. Third, I sprayed the tincture with an atomizer over the finished drink. Of the three I found the atomizer to have a stronger aroma over the final drink. Rinsing added too much of the smoke to the drink and was not the effect I wanted. The cotton ball didn’t create a strong enough smell for me. When I used the atomizer, I found I had more control over how much aroma went onto the finished cocktail and I appreciated being able to add more in small increments to achieve the final essence. So, if you are not one for unitaskers, then maybe an atomizer is not something you need taking up space in your bar drawer. I found a tiny atomizer that is under 3″, meant for perfume, but works great.
Next, the Boulevardier Cocktail with Smoke Aroma:
2 oz Bourbon (Black Ridge Small Batch was used for this cocktail)
1 oz Campari
1 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
Orange peel garnish
In a mixing glass 2/3 with ice, stir the first three ingredients about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled rocks glass or goblet (you want some space for your nose to dip into; sounds gross but trust me). Garnish with an orange peel and over the top of the drink, spray about 3-4 sprays of the tincture.
As you move into the glass, there is the meaty smoke aroma followed by the sudden bittersweet richness of the Boulevardier. That first sip has the most smoke on it, while progressive sips become less and less potent, which lets you experience varying degrees of the aroma. If this is all a bit too much for you, have you had a Boulevardier cocktail yet? Go make one, it’s a great Fall cocktail.
1-1/2 oz. High West Campfire Whiskey
1 oz. Laird’s Straight Bonded AppleJack Brandy
1/4 oz. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
2 oz. J.K’s Scrumpy Organic Hard Cider
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice. Stir and strain into a small chilled rock glass with apple ribbon. Garnish with apple and cheese fan.
This drink is wonderfully balanced, bordering on sweet and smoky. Usually the Campfire is the predominant flavor but here blends very well with the sharp kick of the Bonded AppleJack while the Allspice Dram adds that touch of ‘Fall’ with the clover and spice notes in the finish of the drink. The addition of the hard cider melds everything together and making the apple presence much more noticeable. The garnish provides one additional layer of smokiness in smell and flavor, while the apple slices provide visual appeal and lets you know what flavors you’re in for.
The hard ciders and Glogg are starting to roll out. It’s Fall- hell, it’s almost Thanksgiving already. For me that means starting to plan for Christmas. My personality is such that I painfully start planning things much too far in advance, forget about them, and freak out at the last minute trying to get these plans into action.
A good chunk of gift giving is pretty easy actually when it comes to my friends. They all like booze. But really, putting a bow on a bottle of Jameson a couple years in a row starts to become too easy and predictable. Yes, you can step it up and maybe shell out for a bottle of Booker’s. However that becomes expensive when you multiply that by just 4 people.
When I started making my own infused syrups at home it occurred to me the potential these had for gift giving. One can make up a batch, pair it with a small bottle of something, and write up a little card with a drink recipe on it. For me, it’s a way of sharing an interest with my friends and getting them tipsy in the process. Win! Even better when you can open it together.
This year I’m expanding my usual arsenal of syrups to include some Fall spices that I want to try out. Adapting the clove syrup recipe from the PDT Cocktail Book, I’ve scaled that down and also worked up a cinnamon syrup too. Bottle these up and give away, or keep for yourself.
For this recipe, I made a master batch of simple syrup and then divided it to steep the cloves and cinnamon separately.
Master Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Combine water and sugar in a sauce pan. Swirl to combine and place over high heat until warmed through and transparent. Do not let it come to a boil. Once sugar is dissolved, remove from heat if using immediately for below or keep over a very low flame- you will need the syrup to be warm to infuse.
1/2 cup simple syrup
1/4 oz of cloves (I used a kitchen scale to weigh this out. It’s about 3 tablespoons if I were to eyeball it.)
Combine a half cup of the warm simple syrup with the cloves in a heat-proof container. Let sit for 15 minutes. Strain into a bottle through cheesecloth or a fine sieve. Let the mixture cool and store in the refrigerator.
1 cup simple syrup
5 sticks of cinnamon, 2″ to 2-1/2″ in length
Combine a half cup of the warm simple syrup with the cinnamon sticks in a heat-proof container. Let sit for 15 minutes. Strain into a bottle. Let the mixture cool and store in the refrigerator.
Syrups will keep approximately 1 month in the refrigerator (or at least they do in my house).
On this gigantic shopping spree I went on in that tiny store, I also acquired a bottle of Carpano Antica. A lightly sweet and bitter Italian sweet vermouth that I see on just about every cocktail menu here in L.A. serving up a Manhattan. To balance out this drink I decided to stick with the Angostura bitters. I also upped the sweet vermouth since I found that the delicate nature of Carpano Antica was going to be competing with that Campfire whiskey. I’m thinking of trying this next time with a more assertive sweet vermouth so there would be less need to add extra.
2 oz. High West Campfire Whiskey
1-1/2 oz. Carpano Antica
3 dashes of Angostura bitters
Part of the costume was to be an empty Ralph’s container of milk, however they only had pints of half and half around. Instead of dumping out the milk when we got back, I can’t waste food, we poured it into some containers and I decided to put it to good use making some White Russians, for help getting “into character”.
I had to consult The Joy of Mixology since this isn’t a drink I often consume. Or actually, have ever had. But we needed to be authentic for the costume. It’s only changed slightly in that I built it in the glass and stirred it, and subbed out 1/2 and 1/2 for the cream. I know, there’s dairy in there, it should be shaken. But the Dude doesn’t go for that fancy stuff.
2 oz. Vodka
1 oz. Kahlua
1 oz. 1/2 and 1/2
Build ingredients in a rocks glass. Give it a good stir to combine. Try not to get it all up in your mustache.
What’s it taste like? Sort of like sweet, spiked coffee. It’s rich, and I can’t fathom how one could continually throw these back. But to each his own.