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Welcome To Wonkette Happy Hour, With This Week's Cocktail, The Cider Brandy Fix!
Got a hankering for fresh fall apples? This cocktail will fix ya.
Greetings, Wonketeers! I’m Hooper, your bartender. Fall is upon us, and in Ohio that means apple season is in full swing. There’s nothing quite so wonderful as fresh apple cider. I absolutely guzzle it when it hits the shelves. To celebrate, I decided to make a cocktail crammed with as much apple flavor as I could manage. Let’s drink a Cider Brandy Fix and get ready for the leaves to turn. Here’s the recipe.
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Cider Brandy Fix
4 oz fresh apple cider
1 ½ oz Watershed Apple Brandy
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz cinnamon ginger syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
Shake all ingredients except for the nutmeg in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a double old fashioned glass over a large ice cube. Sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg. Garnish with an apple slice and cinnamon stick
Cinnamon Ginger syrup
1 cup Demerara sugar
1 cup water
1 3” cinnamon stick
1 slice fresh ginger, 1” across
Heat all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and bottle the syrup. It will keep 2-3 weeks in the fridge.
In case there are any questions, apple cider and apple juice are not the same thing. Apple juice is apple cider with its soul removed. It’s strained and pasteurized into oblivion, rendered into nothing more than “natural” sugar water. Real cider is apples, crushed, strained lightly, and handed to you in a glass. It’s easy to get unpasteurized cider in the heart of Ohio, but flash-pasteurized cider is perfectly fine. I’ve had unpasteurized start to ferment in the fridge after opening. It’s not as fun as you might think.
Apple brandy, on the other hand, is properly distilled apple cider, refined into something far more elegant. Calvados is the gold standard for this liquor, but it’s as much of an American spirit as a French one. I’m using an apple brandy from Watershed Distillery for this cocktail. Watershed is out of Columbus, and I like supporting local, especially when it comes to apples. This particular apple brandy has more of an alcohol burn than I like, but the apple finish comes through very nicely. Cider for up-front apple flavor, brandy for even more apple flavor after the first sip. Sounds like a winner.
When I encounter a liquor that needs a little help, especially a strong-tasting one, I make a fix. “Fixes” are simple, primal cocktails — spirit, lemon juice, sugar, and fruit juice. They’re the root ancestors of daiquiris and margaritas. The acid and sugar balance out the alcohol burn from nearly anything; I could make a drinkable moonshine fix using this core recipe. Here we’re using the syrup to cram in some of the apple-related flavors that bring us into apple pie territory. Lemon, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg are all perfect complements to apple; the extra spice notes are what take this drink over the top.
Let’s talk ingredients:
Fresh apple cider: I try to offer substitutions for ingredients when I can, but if you live somewhere that doesn’t provide fresh cider this time of year I can’t offer anything but sympathy. Make yourself a nice Mount Gay and lime and read along for fun.
Watershed Apple Brandy: I’d try Calvados if you can locate it, or look for a local distiller that’s offering their own take on apple brandy. Failing that, I’d use Makers Mark or another quality bourbon. Maker’s Mark is aged with French oak staves in the barrel, so it offers a sweetness that would be great in this glass.
Lemon juice: Lemon juice is slightly more acidic than lime juice, and its flavor is more pronounced. Be sparing with the juice in this glass; too much and you’ll make apple lemonade. Fresh is mandatory. Sing along, everyone — plastic lemons make plastic juice.
Cinnamon ginger syrup: The demerara sugar gives us a caramel note that’s perfect for apples. Cinnamon and apples are a pairing for the ages. The tiny amount of ginger adds a spark that keeps the drink refreshing. Save this syrup for later; it works perfectly with rum, or your morning coffee.
Angostura bitters: A touch of bitters is my secret weapon against an alcohol-forward spirit. The gentian root has this magical property of blending flavors in a cocktail that will otherwise refuse to cooperate. All that said, use it with care. The apple flavors are surprisingly delicate. Two drops threaten to turn this into an Angostura bitters cocktail instead of an apple cocktail.
Garnish: A little grated nutmeg on top of the drink really hit the “apple pie” flavor profile nicely. Aromatic garnishes, like a cinnamon stick and a fresh apple slice, also boost the fall flavors in the drink.
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