OK, my headline isn't really correct--I recommend doing these things sober, in preparation for getting drunk. They involve knives and fire.
This weekend, I decided to keep the promise I made on a podcast to make some apple cocktails. We’ve been getting great apples from a farmer in San Diego who delivers boxes to our Long Beach neighborhood. I combined those with some other apples, including some fujis and pink ladies, then followed this recipe from Imbibe. It really wasn’t too difficult, and while I fully expected the results to be equal or less than to Simply Apple cider, to my surprise it actually was much better, and rivaled cider I’ve bought in Julian.
I also decided to try making some apple gastrique, similar to what I had in La Jolla. I had no idea what their recipe was, so I kind of made it up. I took a cup of the apple pulp while making cider (before the step squeezing it through cheesecloth) and caramelized it in a sauté pan with just a couple of pinches of demerara sugar over high heat for five minutes or so, then added a 375 ml bottle of Vin Glaciere muscat ice wine (once made by Bonny Doon, by the way, but since handed off to another maker so Bonny Doon could focus on more obscure things, like apple brandy). I reduced this for a few minutes, then turned off the heat and let it cool. I strained it into a jar, pressing the pulp well, then taking a spoonful of the pulp and added it to the jar to make a more rustic gastrique (this is optional, of course, since the flavor from the pulp had been almost all extracted).
Then I experimented with making a few cocktails, with three different liquors: Laird’s Applejack, Maker’s Mark Bourbon, and Clear Creek Apple Brandy. Maker’s Mark isn’t my favorite bourbon (Woodford Reserve is) but it’s a good mixing bourbon. We’ve said a great deal about Laird’s here before. And Clear Creek is just a very good brandy producer. I also had some decent Calvados, but I drank it (well, most of it--I used a cup of it to flambé some pan roasted spiny lobsters, but that’s another story). I didn’t do much with garnishes, but a sliced apple and/or a cinnamon stick would have been nice. I also stuck to the core booze--I was tempted to add some sweet red vermouth, but resisted to keep the flavors cleaner, at least for now.
Honestly, all of these combinations were pretty good. The apple brandy was better with the cider, the applejack was better with the gastrique, and the bourbon was pretty good with either (but better with a little of both). The apple brandy honestly was better on its own, and somewhat wasted in a cocktail. The real star, as you might expect, was the Laird’s. Two ounces of Applejack, 1 ounce of apple gastrique, and a dash of apple cider over ice was a winner, but research continues.
Learn more about fun with apples on the Internet.