Fall Cocktails

Fall Harvest

In response to Joey Schmidt’s recent post about Pumpkin Spice tiki drinks (and the general pumpkin spice craze that seems to hit everywhere around this time of year), we are re-posting this story from last fall that includes our Pumpkin Spice Sour.

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While seeking inspiration for the Fall Cocktails seminar we taught last week, we thought of three things we definitely wanted to use: Applejack, homemade Old Tom gin, and pumpkin.

We’ve said before that we really enjoy using Applejack in our cocktails in the fall. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Applejack is technically a brandy made from apples, though it drinks more like a whiskey than a brandy. Before prohibition, Applejack and strong cider were the the primary products for which apples were grown. Applejack has been making a gradual comeback in recent years.

The Laird’s company of New Jersey is the oldest and most prominent distiller of this product. Their 80-proof blended Applejack is the only variety available in here in Alabama. Out of state, you can get several others including our favorite, the Laird’s Bottled-in-Bond Straight Apple Brandy. There are also a few other companies that make similar products. In France, they make an apple brandy called Calvados, which is quite different in character from Applejack, but it is interesting to switch them out in recipes to see how they play with others.

We paired the Applejack with an equal amount of our Old Tom, which you can find the recipe for here. We’ll spare you the “History of Gin” lecture here since you’ll get most of it if you follow that link. Our Old Tom is heavy with baking spices, especially cardamom and clove, with a hint of orange peel, making it an exquisite partner for the Applejack. We added Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, a little cranberry juice, and bitters to round out the drink, which we decided to call Autumn Spice.

Autumn Spice

  • 1 ounce Old Tom Gin
  • 1 ounce Applejack
  • ½ ounce Domaine de Canton
  • ½ ounce cranberry juice
  • 3 dashes aromatic bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass filled ¾ with ice. Stir to desired dilution. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.

We knew we wanted to make a pumpkin spice syrup. Everybody’s crazy about pumpkin spice these days, it seems. But unlike whatever is in your corporate cappuccino, we wanted to use actual pumpkin. We used a sugar pie pumpkin, baked the meat, and then pureed it in the blender. You can also use canned pumpkin puree, but where’s the fun in that?

Pumpkin SourPumpkin Spice Syrup (adapted from themessybaker.com)

  • ¾ cups water
  • ½ cup granular sugar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground clove
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 cup pumpkin puree

Add water and sugar to a small saucepan. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Add pumpkin puree and spices. Whisk to combine. Reduce heat to medium low for five minutes, whisking frequently. Remove from heat and let sit to cool. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth. Bottle and store in the refrigerator.

We tried this syrup in a variety of drinks, but our favorite was a variation on a classic whiskey sour.

Pumpkin Whiskey Sour

  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 ounce pumpkin syrup
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • ½ ounce egg white

Pour all ingredients into a shaker. Shake without ice until you feel pressure building in the shaker. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.

For more Fall cocktails, see here, here, and here.

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Switch Hitters

We were reminded at a recent seminar that switching one base liquor for another is one of the oldest bartender tricks in existence. There is often some other tweaking involved besides just making a substitution.

For example, let’s start with a basic Daiquiri: rum + lime + sugar.

Take that recipe and switch brandy for the rum and lemon for the lime. Optionally, add triple sec for extra citrus and sweetness. Also optionally, add sugar to the rim of the glass. Now you have a Sidecar.

Switch out tequila for the brandy and switch the sugar rim for a salt rim. You can use lemon or lime or a combination. Now you have your basic Margarita.

You may not know that several drinks we associate with whiskey today, notably the Sazerac and the Mint Julep, were originally made with brandy or cognac. The switch was made during a period of grape blight when cognac became much harder to get (and subsequently more expensive). Over the past week, we have been enjoying both of those cocktails with brandy as the base liquor, and the result is delicious. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that brandy/cognac is sweeter than bourbon or rye, so you can get away with using a little less sugar.

We like to use Christian Brothers XO brandy or Hennessy VSOP cognac. You might try substituting other fine brandies or eaux de vie in yours and see what you come up with.

julepBrandy Mint Julep

  • Muddle a few leaves of mint with 1/2 ounce of simple syrup in a rocks glass (or make a batch of mint syrup, if you prefer)
  • Add two ounces of brandy/cognac
  • Fill glass with crushed ice.
  • Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

In the Wikipedia article on the Manhattan cocktail, there are numerous variations that do little more than switch out the base liquor. Some also switch to a different type of vermouth. For example, if you make a Cuban Manhattan, which subs light rum for the whiskey, you might want to use a dry vermouth instead of sweet. The dry vermouth will help counter the sweetness of the rum, and if you are using a white rum, you will still have a crystal clear cocktail (as long as you stir it; don’t shake!)

Or you could try our variation, which uses Punt e Mes, a sweet vermouth with a kind of bitter edge to it. We also prefer an aged rum like Flor de Cana 4-year. If you are feeling really fancy, use the 12-year.

Cuban Manhattan

  • 2 ounces aged rum
  • 1/2 ounce Punt e Mes
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • stir in a mixing glass full of ice to desired level of dilution
  • strain into a coupe glass
  • garnish with lemon peel

The ancestor of the Sidecar and the Margarita–the granddaddy of all “fancy” cocktails–is the Crusta. Though it was originally made with brandy, there was a time around the Civil War era when it was popular with gin. The style of gin you would most likely have found at that time was Old Tom. We recommend buying Ransom’s brand of Old Tom if you can find it. Otherwise, make your own.

CrustaOld Tom Crusta

  • Carve a long spiral of lemon peel, about an inch wide.
  • Cut the lemon in half and rub the rim of a coupe glass with the lemon
  • Rim the glass with sugar (rub the lemon on the glass first, so the sugar will stick)
  • Place the lemon spiral in the middle of the glass.
  • Add the following to a shaker full of ice:
    • 2 ounces of Old Tom gin
    • 1/2 ounce lemon juice (protip: use the same lemon you peeled earlier)
    • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
    • 1/4 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • Shake and strain mixture into the glass.

 

 

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day Cocktails

Here are a couple of suggestions for a special night with a special someone. Our first selection reminds us of a furtive romp in the barn that results in a shotgun wedding.

Moonshiners DaughterThe Moonshiner’s Daughter

  • 2 ounces Stills Crossroads Alabama ‘Shine
  • 1 ounce grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 ounce Pama
  • 1/4 ounce passion fruit syrup
  • white of one egg
  • three drops pear bitters

Add all ingredients except the bitters to a mixing glass. As with any egg white cocktail, shake first without ice. Then add ice and shake again. Strain into a coupe and carefully drop pear bitters into the foam.

Use a stirrer to draw the bitters into a heart shape, or a puppy, or whatever.

Our second selection is more of a dessert drink with just a little nip of a bitter bite on the back end. Because, you know, that’s how love really is. This one is frisky.

Chocolate Cherry 2It Happened One Night

  • 2 ounces xo brandy
  • 1/2 ounce Campari
  • 1/2 ounce Cherry Heering
  • 1/2 ounce creme de cacao

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into a brandy snifter. Add a Luxardo maraschino cherry for extra fancy decadence.

While enjoying, listen to the 1997 hit song “Valentines Day” by my old band PopCanon.