Sunday, October 16, 2011

Autumn Old Fashioned

Well, then. Last weekend it was in the mid-80s - hot for October. This weekend, it is in the cool 60s. Brisk nights. Breezy afternoons. Only glimpses of that sparkling October sky through puffy white cumulus. The increasing presence of chilly grey clouds casting an ominous light. Let's call it "Graveyard Grey."

Autumn is here. Definitely my favorite time of year for cuisine. I am prone to eating lots of cheese. Sharp cheddar. Swiss fondue. Stilton. Not to mention savory game meats - wild boar, venison - along with all manner of root vegetables, bisques, oysters, mac and cheese, chowder, mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts cockaigne, hearty pastas and baked dishes, cassoulet, choucroute... the list can, and does, go on. The crisp, gusty days; the wafting tendrils of smoke from bonfires and hearths; the clouds pushed hurriedly across bright, clean, blue skies; the trees exploding in colors of rust and amber, flame orange and that yellow that is almost indefinably rich and luminescent... It just seems to stimulate the appetite. The metabolism preparing for winter's icy clutches. The urge to fatten up. A good time for eating.

And a good time for drinking, too.

I like the flavor of applejack during the fall. The apples go hand-in-hand with the season, so I have been trying to find cocktails that can be made with applejack. About a month ago, in my last posting, I introduced the Newark Cocktail. The Newark is a delightfully autumnal sipper, with a host of tantalizing flavors that evoke the season of burning firewood, spooky nights on streets paved with leaves, carved pumpkins leering from front porches and entryways, gnarled oaks, apple orchards, and crumbling stone walls.

When I found a recipe for an applejack-based Old Fashioned, I had to try it. And this recipe is very good. This one is totally New England to me. Apple, maple, cinnamon, nutmeg - the flavors are perfect for an autumn evening after a day spent wandering the woods in light sweaters, the rustling leaves aflame with color.

A couple of notes:
  1. If you can find Laird's Bonded Straight Apple Brandy (100 proof), use that - you'll get the flavor of about about sixteen to twenty pounds of apples per bottle. I haven't yet found it in Boston, so I use Laird's Applejack, a blended spirit with apple as the base (as opposed to rye, wheat, or corn), which contains about six pounds of apples per bottle. It's sort of like American whiskey with a hint of apple. 
  2. As for the maple syrup, you won't get the spirit of this drink without using the good stuff: grade A, 100 percent pure. I will go so far as to recommend dark amber for fuller flavor. The one I used is Coombs Family Farms Maple Syrup, Grade A Dark Amber. Smoky and richly flavored, not too sweet, and redolent of the northern New England woods. 
  3. Try to find the Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters. They have the perfect flavor of cinnamon and spice to provide the correct underpinning to the maple and applejack. The barrel aged bitters are available only in limited quantities each spring. Find them here. In a pinch you can use regular Fee Brothers Old Fashion Bitters, which front a little more cinnamon, with a lot less subtlety. Angostura would probably work as well, but in that case you might experiment with three to four dashes rather than two.
Autumn Old Fashioned 
  • 2 oz applejack
  • 1 tsp Grade A, dark amber maple syrup
  • 2 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters
In an Old Fashioned glass, add the two dashes of bitters (be careful, as they are quite potent - too much and they will overwhelm the drink), the spoonful of maple syrup, and the applejack. Stir to mix, and then add a couple of ice cubes. You can garnish with an orange twist, if you so desire.

Great while listening to Bill Evans' Sunday at the Village Vanguard, or perhaps Frank Sinatra's Autumn in New York...

Bottoms up - Here's to my favorite time of year in New England. Let's make the most of it because we know what comes next...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tasting notes? Suggestions? Please share your thoughts...