Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mixology Monday, December 2014: Apples!

Top of the morning to you MxMoers! (this is what I get for passing out while finishing the copy) This month's Mixology Monday theme comes courtesy of the grandmaster himself, the man with his ear to the drinksprings of Boston and beyond, Fred Yarm of cocktail virgin slut. The topic? The ever-friendly Apple!
Apples have been an American booze staple with Johnny Appleseed as its symbolic hero. John Chapman became that legend by planting apple tree nurseries across the northern Appalachia and the Midwest. He did not choose grafting techniques to reproduce sweet edible ones, but bred them to make sour apples perfect for cider and applejack. Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire proclaimed, "Really, what Johnny Appleseed was doing and the reason he was welcome in every cabin in Ohio and Indiana was he was bringing the gift of alcohol to the frontier. He was our American Dionysus." Apple products began to enter into the mixed drink literature in the 19th century with the Stone Fence appearing in Jerry Thomas' Bartender Guide and got quite refined by the end of the century such as the Widow's Kiss in George Kappeler's Modern American Drinks. Indeed, apples have found their way into modern cocktails via Calvados, applejack, sparkling and still cider, apple butter, and muddled apple.
When active, go check out this month's round-up post and tell the folks how much you like dem apples!

As you might've noticed, falernum's really caught my fancy lately. Get me started on a homemade ingredient and suddenly I want to adapt its flavor profile all over the map. But the interesting stuff comes later.

This month's entry is pure second-run: the second-run recipe off my second-run falernum flavor profile idea, and a second-run idea for using apples for MxMo at that. So, it should actually be a bit better than the first-run ideas judging by the way I run things around here.

The first-run ideas will all see the light of day in due course - and the second of our feature falernum recipes drops later this week. But, given that one's a coffee cocktail (you read right - and not a flip!), I wanted to showcase the feature ingredient in something a bit closer to its native Tiki. Which is to say, a Sour.

Now, for some odd reason, the scotch is just a natural pairing with oh-so-seasonal cranberry falernum; but then, that it pairs well with lots of red fruit in a Blood and Sand, perhaps it's not so surprising. But a pure whisky cocktail just doesn't seem to highlight the best of what's going on in the syrup - it leaves all those spices out in the cold looking for a way to connect. Enter by a pure "heck, if I use this it turns into a drink for MxMo this month," the perfect ingredient: un esprit delicieux de Normandie, calvados.

Red Plaid Wool Scarf
1 oz blended Scotch (Monkey Shoulder)
1 oz calvados (Boulard VSOP)
1/2 oz cranberry falernum*
1/4 oz orange liqueur (Combier)
1/4 oz lime juice
apple peel horse's neck for garnish
Garnish. Shake. Strain.

On the nose you're going to be greeted prominently by the fresh apple zest, so that's why I recommend a good personable MacIntosh (what better accessory to a proper plaid scarf, neh?) or similar fall apple. The tough flexible skins these types of apples have also make taking the peel easier (as in: a little harder to accidentally cut short with a paring knife). The nose also features mild hints of malty scotch and orange sweetness, tempered by the bottles of whisky and liqueur you use.

And the palate? Well, as you might expect, it's somewhere between a Cosmo and a Sidecar, with a hint of malt and a generous undertone of spice. The Monkey Shoulder in this case brings a mild toffee-vanilla and the faintest hints of smoke (Famous Grouse would also be wonderful here) while the calvados brings an opulent fruitiness that makes the whole drink; when asked to choose between calvados and Applejack (and cognac, which frankly disappears in the drink), use the calvados by all means. At that, it's less jarring than the vanilla notes of gold rum you'd expect to to go well with falernum. To pair with that bright apple fruitiness goes a nudge of proper tart cranberry and shimmering ginger-heavy falernum pie spice. It ends with a clove finish. Depending on your sweetness preference, this cocktail would make an interesting tableaux for playing around with a dash or two of bitters.

Cranberry Falernum
This one's going to have to be purely homemade - it'll be difficult to do a cranberry add-on to pre-bottled falernum.

So, pick your favorite falernum recipe. I use Kaiser Penguin's recipe regularly, though only a quarter batch at a time (it's just li'l ol' me and Boomer here) given how the spices lose their punch after about a month.

Infuse the spices and zest per usual (and add the almond ingredients on this half of the process, or at the very end for almond extract, if including). Strain after desired infusion time.

For the syrup/sweetener half, once the spice/zest infusion is ready, make a hot process syrup. You want to use simmering-level heat only throughout, you're not making candy. Start by dissolving the sugar in the water, and once that's done throw in your fresh or frozen cranberries. Gently simmer the berries until they pop, begin to disintegrate and the syrup turns a cheerful holiday red. Let mostly cool, then fine-strain the liquid into your storage container, pressing all the lovely drops out with a spatula.

Add in your strained spice infusion to the storage container. Seal and shake to combine.

If making a quarter batch of Kaiser Penguin's recipe, use 1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries. (the 2:1 simple syrup, using 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water, prior to berries results in approximately 4.5 ounces of syrup) A full batch of the same recipe using 2 cups sugar and 1 cup water will require 5 cups of cranberries.

Big thanks our host, third-degree black belt catherder Frederic! A delicious theme and enjoyable challenge (with very pretty logos, natch!). Cheers and happy holidays everyone!