Whether or not it’s leaf-peeping or apple-picking season in your corner of the country, October is a perfect time for fall flavors. And when it comes to cocktails, we’re all about apple brandy—particularly the new American Craft Apple Brandy from Kentucky-based distiller Copper & Kings.
Whereas some apple-centric spirits are a combination of apple brandy and a neutral grain spirit, this Copper & Kings bottle is nothing but fruit. Their fresh-pressed apple juice is fermented and then distilled through an American copper pot still. Aged in both bourbon and new American oak barrels, it takes on the aged character and hue of a whiskey but retains a bright, juicy apple flavor.
At 92 proof, it’s pleasantly smooth as a sipper, but takes beautifully to cocktails, too. Here are three original drinks that show off its vibrant apple flavor.
Easy: Apple-Ginger Cooler
Whether in a fresh juice, a Thanksgiving pie, or a cocktail, apple and ginger have a natural affinity for each other. In this drink, which takes inspiration from a classic Mule or Dark & Stormy, we’re simply combining apple brandy with sharp, spicy ginger beer, with a squeeze of lime for a bright burst of acidity. Takes 30 seconds to make, and tastes far more complex than it is.
Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine an ounce and a half of apple brandy and four ounces of ginger beer. Stir briefly, and garnish with a lime wedge, squeezed into the drink before serving.
Intermediate: Apple Manhattan
Aged in both bourbon and new oak casks, this apple brandy has the weight and heft of a good American whiskey. So it’s little surprise that it works perfectly in a Manhattan. In this case, we’re riffing on the template that bartenders actually call a “Perfect Manhattan,” using both sweet and dry vermouth, rather than only sweet. Orange bitters add depth and balance.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, stir together two ounces of apple brandy, half an ounce of sweet vermouth, and half an ounce of dry vermouth. Add a dash of orange bitters. Stir until very well-chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist, spritzing its citrus oils over the surface of the drink before serving.
Advanced: Cider on Cider
This time of year, you’ll find jugs of fresh apple cider at just about every supermarket. We love it heated up with a glug of whiskey, but cider can star in chilled cocktails, too. Here, we’re dialing up the apple flavor and balancing it with lemon and the warm spice of Angostura bitters.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine an ounce and a half of apple brandy, two ounces of fresh apple cider, a quarter-ounce of fresh lemon juice, and a quarter-ounce of simple syrup, along with a dash of Angostura bitters. Shake until very well-chilled, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Add an ounce of club soda and stir briefly. Garnish with a few apple slices fanned out over the top.
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