Cocktails: The Spiced Apple

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.

The Terroir Martinez Cocktail

I’ve been enjoying St. George’s Terroir Gin¬†for some time now. It was actually a year ago at a trade show that I first tasted it, walking away after a sip feeling like I had taken “a hike in Northern California” due to the local California botanicals used in making the gin. Just today, I was at this year’s edition of that same trade show, and came across the folks from St. George again. This time, they had some mysterious looking bottles with hangtags marked “Manhattan Project” and “Barrel Aged Martinez.” Of course, I had to try them.

The “Manhattan Project” was a nice barrel-aged cocktail in a bottle, rich and balanced, but really nothing too out of the ordinary. You dig Manhattans? You’ll dig their Manhattan. The Martinez, on the other hand, was like a hiking boot kick in the dusty pants. That Terroir Gin was put to marvelous use in this lightly aged (two weeks) cocktail, mixed with Carpano Antica plus Dolin rouge vermouth, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, and a bit of bitters. I tasted many things at the show, but this little sip of a new spin on a classic cocktail was what blew me away.

Now, I know you probably don’t have a barrel sitting around at home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t tackle this Terroir Martinez cocktail. The Martinez is a classic cocktail whose typical components are Old Tom gin, Maraschino liqueur, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Of course, there are many variations on this, in the ratio of gin to vermouth, and in the types of gin or vermouth or bitters employed.¬†The key for this iteration is the Terroir Gin, no substitutions allowed. It lends an herbal evergreen entry that segues¬†seamlessly¬†into the sweet dark cherry and vermouth. While St. George uses two different vermouths in their house recipe, I’ll simplify it a bit and just use one vermouth for this home version. Without the barrel aging, this is a bit sharper than the intended version, less mellowed by time, but it still packs the invigorating buzz of a good, vigorous hike.

Terroir Martinez Cocktail Recipe

2 oz St. George Terroir Gin
3/4 oz Dolin rouge vermouth (or other sweet vermouth)
1/4 oz Luxardo Marachino liqueur
Dash Angostura bitters

Fill a mixing glass halfway with ice. Add ingredients and stir very well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add whatever garnish floats your boat.

* Thanks to Quality Wine and Spirits for hosting another great trade show.

Revisiting Jeremy Lin (the Cocktail)

Linsanity has plateaued somewhere far below its peak in New York City, but Jeremy Lin (the player) is still managing to play some excellent basketball. The news this morning captured the current state of the Knicks, “Fueled by a dose of Linsanity and a timely coaching change, the Knicks are making a furious charge toward a division title.” So, with Lin’s mini-resurgence, I decided to revisit the Jeremy Lin cocktail I created a month ago at the peak of Lin-diculousness. How Lin-diculous did things get? Well, the Thirsty South-devised cocktail made the Wall St. Journal. What!? (Scroll down in that link, apparently Rory McIlroy and Andrew Luck take precedent over a good cocktail!)

The day I created the cocktail, I didn’t even have the ingredients I wanted on hand. After all, not many folks have Kao Liang sitting around the house. ¬†It was a “theoretical cocktail” (and I am now pursuing my PhD in Cocktail Theory, it takes about a lifetime to complete). Now, though, with Kao Liang in hand, I can present a slightly modified version of the recipe. As intended, this drink is strong, with bite and a nice zing to it, and an undercurrent of earthy mellow sweetness pinning it down. The combination of ginger and rhubarb and the slightly funky brown sugar-y notes of (sorghum-based) Kao Liang really works nicely. I’ve axed¬†The King‚Äôs Ginger Liqueur in favor of Domaine de Canton, partly due to the fact that I CAN’T GET THE KING’S GINGER in Georgia, and partly because the Domaine de Canton is a bit more subtle and I think it allows the unusual flavors of the Kao Liang to come through. With that… enjoy!

The Jeremy Lin


  • 1.5 oz Kao Liang
  • 0.75 oz Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
  • 0.25 oz fresh lemon juice
  • Dash Brooklyn Hemispherical Rhubarb Bitters

Shake ingredients over crushed ice like a madman. Strain into a chilled glass. Slam it home. 

The Manhattan: Cocktail Classicism and Revisionism

First off, I promise not to use the term “The Manhattan Project” or say “I’ll Take Manhattan” in the course of this post. I won’t even say “The Muppets Take Manhattan,” though I may burst out with a rendition of that “Man or Muppet” song from the recent Muppet movie. ¬†It rocks. What I most certainly will do, however, is talk about this great cocktail and the many ways to find a variation of it that suits your tastes. The Manhattan may be the very epitome of the term “classic cocktail” (yes, even more so than the revered Martini), but it also serves as a foundation for endless exploration and customization. The base idea is 2 parts rye (no bourbon, please), 1 part sweet vermouth (try Dolin, try Cocchi, you will be amazed by the distinctions), a few dashes of bitters, and… that’s it. It’s simple. It’s strong. It’s balanced. It’s deep. It’s perfect, yet…

Once you’ve got the base concept down, the fun begins.¬†The Wall St. Journal recently published a great overview of the different components and how you can mix and match them. Even just sticking with the notion of 2:1 whiskey to vermouth, you can get a lot of variation based on the particular whiskey or vermouth you use. And please don’t forget the bitters. Those precious dashes do wonders for the drink, and with all the interesting new bitters out there, you can put an interesting twist on the drink with that small component alone.(Side note: I personally prefer shaking over stirring, but you’ll find devotees on both sides of that fence.)

Bartenders have cooked up a nearly infinite number of drinks that depart from the basic Manhattan 2:1 ratio in interesting ways. My favorite variation is a relatively minor but highly impactful tweak. Cut the vermouth in half (and preferably use its close cousin, Punt e Mes), add 1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, and you have a Red Hook. The Luxardo adds a sprinkling of magical pixie dust that elevates the drink just a notch beyond perfection. (This one goes to 11) Some call for 1/2oz of the stuff, but I think that overwhelms the balance of the drink, basically coating your tongue in that pixie dust. Not good.

One twist I hadn’t seen before shows up in this¬†nice little video¬†from and Dushan Zaric of¬†Employees Only¬†in New York. His spin on the drink dramatically amps up the vermouth to rye ratio, and adds in some Grand Marnier for a deep orange detour. Sounds like a trip worth taking, but calling it a Manhattan is a bit of a stretch.

You like things dark, brooding and murky? Take out the Manhattan’s sweet vermouth, use 3/4oz Averna, and you’ve got a Black Manhattan. Crisper and drier? 1.5 oz bourbon, 1.5oz bianco vermouth, and a lemon peel twist makes a Bianco Manhattan. There’s the Brooklyn, the Little Italy, the Greenpoint. If it’s a New York neighborhood, there’s probably a Manhattan variation with that name. Now whether these are truly Manhattan variations, or simply clever drinks that bear a passing resemblance to the original in one or two discrete components… that’s a debate worth having over a cocktail.

Here’s the recipe and some thoughts on my personal favorite, The Red Hook:

2oz rye (I like Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond, a tremendous value at $15-$18)
1/2oz Punt e Mes (or your favorite sweet vermouth – Punt e Mes brings a nice bitterness)
1/4oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

Stir or shake over ice (I like the body that shaking provides) and strain into a chilled glass. A Luxardo cherry makes a nice garnish but is not a necessity.

Oh, and here are a few videos from – the one for the Employees Only Manhattan, and one for a nice Rob Roy as well (a Scotch variation on the Manhattan):

Cocktails: The Jeremy Lin

Jeremy LinIf you follow the NBA even remotely, you’ve surely heard of Jeremy Lin, the Harvard-educated Asian-American player who is causing pandemonium in New York right now. He’s got poise, courage, and strength – and the world is in need of a cocktail with equally admirable attributes. The starting point has to be Kao Liang, probably the most high profile Taiwanese or Chinese spirit, and one that kicks ass as well. Next, something with verve and agilityThe King’s Ginger for sure (no offense, LeBron, but this King is not for you). Gotta have something FRESH and with zing…. a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, of course. Then to round it all out, something with a bit of bite, something New York, something distinctly American… a dash of Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters Rhubarb Bitter.

Without further ado, Thirsty South presents…

The Jeremy Lin

1.5 oz Kao Liang
0.75 oz The King’s Ginger Liqueur (or Domaine de Canton – see this updated recipe!!!)
0.25 oz fresh lemon juice (gotta be fresh)
Dash Brooklyn Hemispherical Rhubarb Bitters

Shake ingredients over crushed ice like a madman. Strain into a chilled glass. Slam it home.