A cocktail seems only appropriate given I still have dried whiskey grain schmutz on my shoes (epic pump disaster people, epic!) and smell like a fermenting tank from our five days of working out at the Bainbridge Distillery.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not so very coincidentally, this particular cocktail came out of our last trip to Seattle.
During our fall trip to Seattle, back in the olden days when we were just visiting to look at a giant copper still not to purchase one, Joel and I were in a borrowed car zipping through one of the neighborhoods whose names I can never remember (the only neighborhoods in Seattle I can ever remember the names of are Ravenna and Ballard. Don’t know why, but those are stuck like glue) when my phone chimed with a message from my mother.
She wanted us to know that the beautiful, venerable old club (built at the start of the 20th century) where we had had our wedding was looking for a new signature cocktail and they had put out a call to members to submit ideas, one of which would be chosen.
“We should submit one.” I told Joel. And I immediately had an idea out of nowhere. “It should be rye whiskey with a touch of maple syrup topped off with a really dry hard cider! And it should have a few dashes of bitters. Probably a twist of orange too.”
Now, this may have been born mostly of the idea of a variety of things I like to drink, all stirred together in a single glass. I enjoy the spiciness of rye whiskey in cocktails, I double plus love bitters, and I like the dry funk of a not too sweet hard cider. And maple syrup, well seriously, how could you not love the intense amber sweetness of a dark maple syrup? But, I also felt like it spoke to the flavors of Minnesota. We have friends who produce maple syrup from the woods on their land. Rye whiskey crept over the border into Minnesota from Canada during prohibition, and from here was sent southward to larger cities like Chicago. And Minnesota does apples really well. We may not be the big producers as far as quantity goes, but I’m pretty sure we get some prize for quality. This is where amazing new apple varieties are invented.
I figured that all these lovely things together would taste like a cozy afternoon by the fire on a northern November day.
This was the discussion. Joel can attest to it.
And then we arrived at our destination. This particular destination just so happened to be Essex Bar (the bar attached to Delancey and owned by Molly Wizenberg and Brandon Pettit. You know the pair.). There we were meeting a friend for a drink, and there – I kid you not – I looked down at the menu and saw a cocktail that was made of whiskey, maple syrup, and hard cider, with bitters, and a little hit of citrus.
Great minds, I guess? At the time, at least, it seemed like the craziest coincidence imaginable.
They called theirs something like the “winter cardigan.” I call my version the “honeycrisp” (after a variety of apple developed at the University of Minnesota). Both versions are wonderful. Sweet, spicy, juicy, crisp, effervescent, and with the all important sparkle of balance and sophistication that bitters lend to a cocktail.
I never got around to submitting it for consideration for the signature drink of the club. But that hasn’t stopped us from serving it at many a dinner party or evening gathering since.
The Honeycrisp Cocktail (makes one)
- 2 oz. rye whiskey
- 1 Tbs. dark maple syrup (preferably grade B)
- 1/2 oz. orange juice (optional)
- a twist of orange peel
- 3 dashes of bitters – preferably citrus bitters, but Angostura works fine
- 4 oz. chilled dry hard cider (using a cider that’s on the dry side helps to keep the drink from being too sweet, but if you prefer rather sweet drinks, you can try it with a less dry cider.)
- In a tall glass (or awesome cocktail mug) stir together the whiskey, maple syrup, and orange juice (if using). Add the bitters and orange peel, then top off with the cider,