I love this time of year. It gets cooler, leaves start changing, a whole new array of produce is available, we have Halloween and Thanksgiving to look forward to, and apple orchards are in full swing. While I’m not normally one to just sit and eat an apple, I can’t resist this time of year. But I don’t buy bags and bags of apples just to eat; I bring these home for the purpose of cooking and baking with them. Homemade applesauce, apple galette, apple crumbles (I need to make one soon). Eve’s pudding is another one I love; you roast apples in a casserole dish before covering it with a cake batter and baking. Usually it’s brushed with an apricot preserve to glaze it but I like to make an apricot custard instead—because calories aren’t real between the months of October and March.
I also come away from cider mills with caramel apples and, of course, tons of cider. Aside from drinking the cider, it always works its way into caramel or gravy for a roasted chicken here. The caramel apples just get devoured.
So, while I dig myself out of a pile of apples and cider, and in honor of Halloween, here are two of my favorite apple cocktails.
The first is a Caramel-Apple Martini. They look and taste just like a cross between a real caramel apple from a cider mill and one of those suckers, florescent green hard candy covered in a caramel that sticks to your teeth better than it does the sucker itself. And it’s ridiculously easy—shake equal parts of caramel-flavored vodka and apple pucker with a tiny squeeze of lemon juice in ice. Strain it into a martini glass. The caramel drizzle inside the glass is totally optional (I just melted a few of those chewy caramel candies in the microwave with a drop of water).
The other one is straight from the orchard—my Cider Mill Martini. I make a simple syrup that’s infused with cinnamon and fresh ginger—bring it to a boil, let it simmer for 10 minutes and then let it steep until it’s cooled.
Strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve and into a big pitcher (or a liquid measuring cup if you’re not serving a crowd). Mix it together with whiskey and apple cider, shake it with ice and pour into a martini glass.
This is the absolute essence of autumn; sweet, tart and sharp apple cider with the spiking heat from the cinnamon and ginger, and a warmth that only whiskey can bring.
I think the donuts are pretty much a requirement for this one, but maybe that’s just me.