I was browsing the latest issue of Imbibe Magazine and came across a cocktail recipe by Robert Ortenzio, from Yardbird in Miami, that intrigued me. I was actually highly skeptical of the recipe, called “the spiced apple,” since I tend to like my cocktails strong and this one called for 3/4 oz chardonnay along with 1/2 oz cinnamon syrup and 1/2 oz apple juice (oh, and some bourbon). It sounded too sweet and too strange to work, but… part of the recipe involved infusing bourbon with apple and spices, and I had been wanting to try that.
So… I started with infusing some bourbon. Basically, you take some bourbon, not too expensive (Old Charter 8 year old was my choice), cut up some apples, throw in some spices, and let it all hang out together for a mere 24 hours. What you get after one short day is bourbon with a very evident cinnamon kick, and less evident (though still there) apples and baking spice. I had heard that cinnamon infuses quickly and can quickly overpower whatever spirit you’re combining it with, and this short infusion proved that one single day is about right.
Once I had the spiced bourbon, I decided to keep going with the recipe, tackling the equally easy and even quicker cinnamon syrup – which is basically simple syrup that mingles with cinnamon sticks for about 10 minutes to get an added boost of flavor. It turned out quite nice, and super easy.
So now that I had my spiced bourbon, and my cinnamon syrup, I decided to just go ahead and give the cocktail a shot. Spiced bourbon – check. Chardonnay – a cheap bottle from Trader Joe’s, intentionally buttery to add an apple pie crust twist to the cocktail. Apple juice – some Mott’s Natural will do. Cinnamon syrup – done. Orange bitters – got it. I shook it all up over ice, expecting disaster. All that sweetness can’t work, can it?
I took a hesitant sip. Then another. Then another. Hot dang, this is actually really good. Every ingredient brings something to the table, from the kick of the bourbon to the bit of oak and butter in the wine to the juicy, um, apple juice, to the lively bitters, to the extra sugar and spice in the syrup. Not too sweet, not too strong, just a really nice autumn cocktail. Well done Robert Ortenzio. You have won me over with apple juice and chardonnay. And bourbon.
P.S. I also tried the drink hot, as the magazine suggested, which ends up tasting a bit like a cross between apple cider and a hot toddy. I like it cold better.
Here’s a slightly modified version of the recipe. (For the original recipe, pick up a copy of the latest Imbibe Magazine.)
The Spiced Apple
1 1/4 oz spiced apple bourbon*
3/4 oz chardonnay
1/2 oz apple juice, preferably unfiltered
1/2 oz cinnamon syrup**
3 dashes orange bitters
Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice, shake vigorously, then strain into a rocks glass over ice. Optional garnish with a thin slice of apple.
*To make spiced apple bourbon, combine 1/2 l bourbon with 2 apples (cut into large pieces, core removed), 3 whole cloves, 4 cinnamon sticks, and 2 whole star anise (or 1/4 tsp anise seed), let sit for 24 hours in a covered glass container, then filter out all solids. That’s it! Feel free to play with the spices.
**To make cinnamon syrup, combine 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, and 3 cinnamon sticks broken into large pieces. Bring to boil over medium heat, then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, let cool, then remove cinnamon. Can be stored in a glass jar in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.