Proposed by: Jonathan
Reviewed by: David
This week’s drink was a Bourbon Cider intended to showcase fall flavors. Going back to brown liquors, Bourbon to be precise, the drink pairs the spirit with apple cider and spices associated with Fall. The recipe comes from Saveur magazine and starts with a simple syrup made in the standard manner with the addition of cinnamon sticks, fresh ginger, and cloves. That syrup is used in the following recipe:
1.5 ounce bourbon
3 ounces apple cider
.75 ounce ginger syrup
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Shake these ingredients with ice, pour into a coupe or martini glass and garnish with dried apple (I used fresh apple slices since that is what I had).
The proposal last week introduced the drink with a nod to North Carolina’s apple production. In that vein I thought it was important to find a local source of cider and used one produced in the NC mountains. There has been a great deal of emphasis nationally on using local ingredients, and we have tried to do more of that with everything we consume.
That said, the Bourbon was anything but local. A spirit that is called Bourbon must be at least 51% corn mash, made in the US, and aged in charred oak barrels. The amount of time in those barrels determines whether it is a straight whiskey. The traditional Bourbon is a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, but I followed a recommendation and used an American Straight Bourbon whiskey produced in Hillsboro, Oregon and aged in Indiana – Big Bottom. The recommendation came from the staff of store just south of us in South Carolina. One of things I have learned through our cocktail adventures is that a good liquor store includes having someone who can offer guidance to the novice. Since the NC stores are run by the state and limited in their advice and guidance, that means making the short trip across the state line.
This would be good time to beg forgiveness. On both my side of the family and my wife’s, we have relatives from Kentucky who would consider a Bourbon from somewhere other than the bluegrass state to be a sacrilege. There are Bourbon producers throughout the US though and, as I found this week, exceptional versions made in those distilleries. Maybe the next time one of them visits, I can curry their favor by offering a taste of Big Bottom or another American Bourbon.
This cocktail will vary with every version of cider used and, with so many varieties of apples, the possibilities are endless. The syrup offers subtle background notes and changing the spices would make it easy to personalize. The final way to change it up is to use different Bourbons.
Here’s David’s review:
Well, Illinois has no apple production to speak of, but we found plenty of ciders available to us.
On tasting this cocktail, my wife said, “This is the adult version of the post-hayride drink.” I don’t have much more to say beyond that. We tried it just after returning home from visiting our daughter at college—so perhaps that added to the homebody comfort embodied in this cocktail—but we were happy to come back to something so simultaneously welcoming and unfamiliar. Only the temperature of the drink seemed different. The apple cider, cloves, and other spices in this drink fit the fall and seem particularly appropriate to today’s added hour. Our version of the syrup could have used more ginger, I think, as I’ve learned to appreciate the combination of bourbon and ginger before, but that hardly diminished the effect of the spices, especially the cloves. Though it seemed a little odd to be drinking something so fall-spicy from martini glasses, otherwise my wife and I enjoyed this drink immensely.
If you try this cocktail yourself, here’s one piece of advice—be careful to strain the syrup carefully. The drink is dense enough without the granularity of the syrup. Alternately, you might try drinking this cocktail hot instead of cold. The mulled feel of the drink might lend itself well to mugs instead of glasses. I can see it as a ski-drink, sipped beside a fire after a day on the slopes. Of course, you should take that advice for what it’s worth. Having grown up in Texas and having never spent any time in a chalet of any sort, I may be fantasizing some other person’s life. Perhaps apre-snow shoveling would work here in Chicago.
Jonathan’s take: I have to credit my wife and neighbors for this: if there is a drink for every season, this is the one for Fall. Apples, bourbon and fall spices – perfect.
David’s take: A perfect drink for fall, all the flavors evocative of the season in combination, a homecoming appropriate to this time of year.
Next week (proposed by David):
My brother may hate me for this, but my proposal for next week is an Aviation, a drink that appeared in an episode of Blacklist (a television series I enjoy) and in a number of other places I’m interpreting as signs. It uses an odd liqueur called Creme de Violette and gin. It’s one of the classics, I’m told, and, looking at the pictures online, it seems particularly beautiful. I know it means another bottle in the cabinet—and one that may be challenging to use again—but I’m hoping it will be worth it. We’ll see. We’re experimenting, right?