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Kicking off the Holiday Season Right

Thanksgiving sits smack in the middle of the cocktail desert.  I mean, let's face it - by this time I have packed away the Mai Tais and Margaritas for the Winter.  There won't be a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables here in California for several months (er, kale-infused daiquiri, anyone?).  And at this point I am sick and tired of flopping the past several years at Holiday Parties with old-school holiday go-tos like Hot Buttered Rum, Tom & Jerry and mulled wines.  

Disclaimer - these are actually really good drinks.  But every year my Holiday partygoers try them, make those "Oh, that's good," faces and inquire as to the location of the nearest bottle of wine.  Then it's just me at the bar drinking my own kool-aid, so to speak.  sigh...

Apple, cinnamon, butter, whiskey... What's not to like?So this year I tried something completely different.  I went mainstream.  I went to the bookstore and picked up the December issue of Imbibe magazine.  They asked around to a series of barkeeps around the country and came up with a number of Holiday cocktail recipes inspired by Winter flavors.  I went straight off the page and mixed in three or four of the cocktails from Imbibe alongside a few of my go-to whiskey drinks, and you guessed it, found myself busy making cocktails at this year's Holiday Party instead of drinking them.  

A special shout to Robert Ortenzio of Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Miami, who is credited with this crowd favorite.  Next time you are in Miami, look him up and thank him for me!

The Spiced Apple
December 2012 Issue of Imbibe Magazine 
Thanks to Robert Ortenzio, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Miami, FL

1 1/4 oz. spiced apple bourbon (see below)
3/4 oz. chardonnay
1/2 oz. unfiltered apple juice (cider can work in a pinch)
1/2 oz. cinnamon syrup (see below)
3 dashes orange bitters

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled - 15-30 seconds. Place a large-format cube of ice in a rocks glass.  Strain drink into the glass and garnish with a very thin slice of apple.    

This drink was advertised as apple pie in a glass - and I have to admit that this description hits pretty close to home.  The spiced bourbon recipe is fragrant and delicious, and the chardonnay delivers an amazing buttery quality to round out the drink.  A really amazing cocktail here.

Spiced Apple Bourbon

1 liter bourbon 
4 Gala apples (go with what you can find locally, but Gala really did the trick for me)
2 whole star anise
4 whole cloves
6 cinnamon sticks

Core and cut each apple into 8 pieces.  Combine all ingredients in any sealable container, cover and let rest at room remperature for 24 hours.  

Don't go crazy or anything on the bourbon.  I used Old Fitzgerald with outstanding results.  Go with whatever apples you can find locally, but I used Gala apples in this instance and they imparted an amazing apple finish to the bourbon.  I used pair of large mason jars to age the bourbon infusion, placing half of the recipe in each jar.  

Cinnamon Syrup 

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 cinnamon sticks, broken into large pieces

Bring ingredients to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and allow cool & steep.  Discard cinnamon sticks and strain into a glass jar or squeeze bottles for use.  Store refrigerated for ~2 weeks.