The Friday Tipple: Fall Classic

Fall Classic

We’ve fallen and we can’t get up, dear Boozers. Autumn appears to have truly arrived, as leaves of every color are whipped around in a stiff wind and the storm windows are shut against the chill. And apples, apples are everywhere, stacked up in untidy piles on the kitchen counter, challenging us in their cheerful hues of red and green: “We dare you to do something with us besides make pie.”

Oh, we’ll take that challenge, and we’ll make a fresh apple shrub out of it. Some of you might call it a drinking vinegar, but the term “shrub” sounds weirdly sexier, in a Colonial sort of way, and we all know how Ben Franklin felt about apples. Not only that, it couldn’t be easier to make, because a shrub is little more than fruit, vinegar, and sugar, simmered into a lovely spicy syrup (there’s a cold-brew method as well, which we will detail below, but it was nippy in the kitchen and we wanted to warm up). When diluted with club soda, it’s a perfect mixer for a fall evening by the fireplace. Gather round it with your friends and boost the immune system at the same time. Cheers.

Fall Classic

It’s so easy to make a shrub that we decided to make a tasty garnish as well — a caraway seed brittle, to be precise. Brittles are not always as easy as they look, but basically it’s simply a cup of water, two cups of sugar, a small knob of butter, and a couple of tablespoons of caraway seeds cooked over medium heat until it becomes thick and syrupy (if you stop cooking too soon, you’ll end up with a caramel). Whisk in a teaspoon of baking soda, then spread it out onto an oiled baking sheet, sprinkle a little sea salt over the top, and let it harden. Voilà.

to make the fresh apple shrub:

3 apples, grated

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup sugar (we used maple sugar)

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

a pinch of salt

Put all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer gently for 30 minutes. Strain, pressing grated apple thoroughly to get out all the liquid. Cool completely; can be refrigerated for up to two weeks. To cold brew, simply place all the ingredients in a mason jar and put it in the fridge for 4 or 5 days, then strain as directed.

to make the Fall Classic:

1.5 ounces fresh apple shrub

2 ounces rye whiskey (we used Catoctin Creek Organic Roundstone Rye)

1/2 ounce fennel or anise liqueur (we used Don Ciccio & Figli Finocchietto)

chilled club soda

caraway seed brittle for garnish (optional, but just right)

Combine first three ingredients in a tall glass with ice and stir well. Top with club soda, stir briskly, and garnish with caraway brittle.

Other options: While we like rye in this drink, it also works well with bourbon or rum. Some anise liqueurs that will work well include absinthe, galliano, ouzo, pastis, and sambuca.

The Friday Tipple: This Little Figgy

This Little Figgy

We’re feeling figgy, Boozers. The neighbors just dropped off a giant bag of fresh figs, because their tree is overflowing and it is, after all, fig season. You may have seen these funny little wonders in the farmer’s market and wondered what to do with them. Fig bars? Figgy pudding? Toasted under the broiler with gorgonzola? The list is endless, really.

We, of course, lean toward the cocktail. Figs lend themselves to cocktails quite well, actually — when added into alcohol, their texture provides a certain silky mouthfeel which makes any drink seem quite sexy. They also have a luscious sweetness which combines well with many other flavors. For our concoction, which we fondly call This Little Figgy, we like the addition of Finocchietto, a fennel liqueur made by one of our favorite local distillers, Don Ciccio & Figgli, but you could substitute another anise-based liqueur such as absinthe or even dust off that bottle of Galliano that you are never quite sure how to use. Get your fig on.

This Little Figgy

On a recent trip to the great state of New York, we were intrigued to discover Core Vodka, which is distilled from apples. The flavor is clean and crisp — this is not an apple-flavored vodka, but simply the essence of apples distilled into vodka. Paired with the fresh fall flavors of fennel and fig, This Little Figgy is like a bright September day poured into a glass.

2 fresh figs

3 ounces vodka

1 ounce Finocchietto or other anise liqueur

2 dashes orange or grapefruit bitters (The Bitter Truth has good varieties of each)

Cut the figs in half and use a spoon to remove the flesh from three of the halves, setting the final half aside for garnish. Put the fig flesh into a cocktail shaker and add the vodka, mashing together. Set aside for a few minutes, then add the Finocchietto, bitters, and a couple of ice cubes. Shake vigorously. Remove the larger pieces of fig (this makes it easier to strain) and strain into a cosmopolitan glass. Garnish with the remaining half of fig.

The Friday Tipple: Sorrento Spring Crush

Sorry to Spring Crush

We’re crushing, Boozers. Daffodils are gaily poking up through the snow and the March winds are carrying the swallows back to their roosts. Spring is in the air and we are ready to welcome it with open arms.

Our thoughts have turned to limoncello in our perennial late winter search for sunshine — when limoncello is done right, it has a bright tartness layered with rich caramel undertones. When it’s done wrong, it tastes like liquid saccharin dusted with powdered lemon. Limoncello aficionados prefer this liqueur only when made with Sorrento lemons, but many good limoncellos are made with more common varieties. It’s quite easy to make at home and many small distilleries are popping up around the country, so check your local area. Our Sorrento Spring Crush is an herbaceous love letter to spring: how do we love thee, let us count the ways…

Sorrento Spring Crush

We love the flavor combination of anise and lemon, especially in the springtime, when we turn our faces up to capture the fleeting warmth of weak sunshine. Hyssop is an herb that can often be found growing wild in spring but also can be found dried for tea consumption. It has a light licorice flavor and can be used as the base for a simple syrup, or reduced into a concentrate as we have done here to add a warm herbal undertone.

3 ounces chilled prosecco

1.5 ounces chilled limoncello (we are fortunate to have gorgeous Don Ciccio & Figli Limoncello in our local area — be jealous)

1 tablespoon reduced hyssop tea (brew a cup and simmer over a low flame until reduced by half, then cool completely)

lemon wedge

fresh fennel fronds

Put lemon wedge and fennel fronds in the base of a large wine glass and muddle thoroughly. Add a few ice cubes, hyssop tea, limoncello, and prosecco, and stir vigorously. Garnish with additional fennel and serve immediately.