When it comes to spice, you can always add more; you can never add less.
As much as I enjoy apple brandy, it’s an ingredient I rarely use. Here’s what tends to happen:
September arrives, and I dust off a bottle of apple brandy, eager to deploy it in all manner of autumnal cocktails. The number of drinks I actually get around to making with it usually ranges from zero to one. As fall turns to winter, the apple brandy makes a gradual retreat to the back of my liquor cabinet. That’s where I find it a year later, as the process begins anew.
But not this year!
Determined to break the cycle, I went into September 2018 with a plan. I had half a bottle of GrandTen Distilling’s North County apple brandy waiting to play its part in this sad annual ritual. But as a way to motivate myself to use it for more than one drink, I infused the brandy with some fall spices. I figured that if I added cinnamon, clove, allspice, and vanilla to the apple, I’d capture all the splendor of autumn in a bottle.
It worked. Sort of.
I made two critical mistakes. First, I added waaaay too much spice for the volume of brandy. If I’d been using a full bottle, it probably would have been fine, but…I guess I got carried away. Second, I underestimated the potency of the cinnamon. I opened my infusion jar after a day or two, expecting to be met with a fairly mild, balanced aroma of apple and spice; instead I was smacked with a blast of cinnamon (and nothing else).
Fearing I’d spoiled the infusion, I quickly extracted the cinnamon stick and gave the brandy another few days to soak up the other spices. That helped balance the overall flavor, but by that point, the spices overwhelmed the apple.
Which is not to say the final product was a failure. I was pleased with the brandy’s reddish-brown hue, and while it was considerably spicier than I’d intended, I was still mostly happy with the flavor.
Cinnamon Apple Coffee Cake
The cocktail I’d had in mind even before I did the infusion was meant to be something of a seasonal Manhattan riff, with apple and coffee. But given the prominence of the spice, I ended up adding brown sugar syrup in quarter-ounce increments until the spices were balanced. The result is more dessert-y than I’d intended, but this is a rich, decadent cocktail that I’d gladly drink after dinner on an autumn evening.
I’m calling it Cinnamon Apple Coffee Cake, which is way too long and descriptive, but that’s pretty much what it tastes like.
1.5 ounce over-spiced apple brandy
¾ ounce coffee liqueur
¾ ounce Amaro Meletti
½ ounce brown sugar syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes orange bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice. Strain into a chilled Nick and Nora or cocktail glass.
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