The Fall Classic

This cocktail comes via, courtesy of Gramercy Tavern in New York. While I needed to make a few detours around the restaurant's recipe in order to tailor it to my diminishing stock, it also calls for certain ingredients I've got too much of lurking around my post-Thanksgiving fridge, so yay! (In case you haven't noticed, this week on the blog is unofficially Make Use of T'giving Leftovers Week.)

What I was happy to have reason to use was my fresh thyme. Someday, I swear, I'm going to construct the world's most impressive year-round herb garden (complete with shoe-organizer mini-plots!), but until then, I find myself all too often buying fresh herbs in presized packages, using a few sprigs for one recipe, then watching the rest wilt in the crisper. Not this time, Mother Nature! Half of my leftover thyme went into an infusion (reveal date TBD); the rest made the thyme syrup for the Fall Classic.

This cocktail also calls for fresh apple cider, but instead I swapped in apple-peel tea. Wuh huh? you ask, stupefied and bewildermazed. See, soon after I arrived in Canada, I decided that living here meant crafting a more wholesome and virtuous existence. Ergo, I joined the on-campus CSA at McGill. Now I get pounds of apples every week, so I make loads of applesauce. First I made it skins-on, because I figured, why bother peeling all those apples only to throw away all those peels? Then I read that Jacques Pepin recommends steeping the peels for tea. It's totes easy -- fresh peels covered in a saucepan with water, a few shakes of lemon juice, perhaps a cinnamon stick, boil 10 minutes -- and the tea comes out a totes adorbs shade of princessy pink. (Pepin recommends oven-drying the peels first, but I kept burning them so I go with this recipe.) Apple peel tea's got sweetness and tartness but none of cider's bite, and every time I drink some of it, I find myself smiling like an idiot. It's just got such a unique, comforting, soft, fresh sweetness about it. It's Happytime Tea, see!

The Fall Classic

(Adapted from Gramercy Tavern, as found on

1 ounce Buffalo Trace Bourbon

1 ounce Busnel Fine Calvados

1 ounce apple-peel tea

1/2 ounce thyme syrup

1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Apple slice, thyme sprig or lemon peel, to garnish

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker, shake vigorously, strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish as you like.

Tasting Notes

The original recipe calls for an ounce of either Calvados or Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy, FYI. It also called for making the thyme syrup with equal parts sugar and water along with four fresh thyme sprigs. I halved the sugar because, especially with an herb-based simple syrup, I just like to make sure that the herbaceousness really comes through.

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The Hot Cha!

In Montreal, Halloween's a very big deal. Like NO-SCHOOL-THE-DAY-AFTER! big (candy hangover NOMMMMM...).

We'll be spending tonight seated in front of our duplex with one of our upstairs neighbors, treats at the ready. (Smarties, the world's greatest candy, am I right?) He informed us that this is tradition around here, because it prevents us all from going crazy hearing our doorbells go off 300 times in one night. I swear to you, in my 15 1/2 years of postcollegiate adulthood, spent in 13 previous apartments, I have never had a single Halloween customer come to my door! I'm so excited!

Yes it is cold here in Canada on the day before November -- although, jeez, nothing like y'all are getting in the NYC <--> DC Eastern corridor; say hello to balmy Quebec! -- so after telling myself I must wear my Under Armour tonight, the second thing I told myself was to concoct a hot cocktail, something sippable from a Thermos.

When I worked at Redbook ages ago, I once edited a piece on healthy winter snacks. (Ask your Grandma if you're not sure what Redbook is.) One of them was to heat up a glass of cranberry juice in the microwave and sprinkle some cinnamon in it. It's actually quite good and for some reason I've always remembered that, so that's what came to mind for the Hot Cha! The rest pretty much wrote itself, almost as if I were possessed... by ghosts... OOOOoooooOOOOO!

The Hot Cha!

1 1/4 ounces Busnel Fine Calvados

3/4 ounces The Arran Malt Single Malt Scotch Whiskey

4 ounces cranberry juice

1/2 ounce honey lemon water

3 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters

1 cinnamon stick

1 orange peel

Heat the cranberry juice, orange peel and cinnamon stick in the microwave together for a minute-ish. While that's nuking, mix the Scotch, Calvados, bitters and honey lemon water in a separate vessel and stir vigorously without ice. Combine the two in a Thermos, or a baby bottle if you want to go as a drunk baby this Halloween.

Tasting Notes

We're fans of the Arran Scotch around here; we also don't keep many other Scotches in the house. Sean recommends Dewar's as a great pick for this recipe because of its bite.

To make honey lemon water, just stir honey, water and a couple lemon slices in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it's cooked down to a consistency somewhere between the honey and the water. I use two parts water to one part honey.

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The Mapplethorpe

So, now that my little Benjamin Button-esque ankle biters have been safely ferried off to see friends in Kingston, Ontario, methinks it a perfect time to unwind and chillax, the chilly autumn air providing the perfect backdrop for a little respite and reflection, and the flavors of the season (this is already starting to sound like a Hallmark card) taking the edge off frazzled nerves.

What I'm talking about is the fall-friendly, locavorish, apple-maple concoction Sean and I whipped up this weekend. We had some Calvados lying around, we had a bit left of our Sortilege maple liqueur (produit du Canada), we had terrific, local apples in peak season... and actually, we also had pomegranates on hand, because for reasons unknown the local grocer had them on sale for like 69 cents apiece (!!!). Sean took lead on this drink and tried to come up with something that incorporated all three. But as you might imagine, the drink came out physically and flavor-ly too muddled.

I suggested he drop the pomegranate part, that it tasted like we were trying too hard and to just trust in the apple and maple to see the drink though. (Yes, I worried that apple and maple was just so obvious. But as I've proven to myself a few times before, sometimes obvious is the exact-right way to go.)

Our new friend Farley -- who was having dinner with us that night, who likewise just moved to Montreal from the States  to study at McGill, who just started making his own beer at home but who knows so little about cocktails that he actually asked us what muddling was -- Farley asked me how I knew to get rid of the pomegranate. I basically told him to stick with me, kid.

The Mapplethorpe has a good amount of complexity. It gives your palate something to consider, but not so much that your brain isn't able to wander off on its own, contemplating the turn of the seasons and the taming of the shrew and whatever other lofty idealisms come to mind when you get the chance to curl into a cozy sweater and ponder brown leaves as they scatter down the street.

The Mapplethorpe

1 1/2 ounces Busnel Fine Calvados

3/4 ounces Sortilege

1/2 ounce lemon juice

2 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Biters

Two apple slices

Maple syrup (optional)

Muddle an apple slice and the bitters in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice and add Calvados, Sortilege and lemon juice. Shake vigorously. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with other apple slice, if you like, after dipping it in some maple syrup.

Tasting Notes

Don't be tempted to skip the lemon juice! It's an essential brightener for the rest of your flavors.

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The Little Sparrow

Hopefully you're lucky enough to work, as I once did, in an industry that abides by Summer Fridays -- last afternoon of the week off, Memorial Day through Labor Day.

If you're not, let's make-tend like you do with a super-short blog post. Gotta catch the Jitney to the Hamptons, where beachside cocktails await!

As you might be able to make out in the above pic, the Little Sparrow is a creation courtesy of Death & Co. If you've ever read this blog before, you know that there is, to my mind, no greater seal of cocktail approval. Thus, fittingly, there's little more for me to say about it. Make, enjoy.

I want to end this post with a cheerfully expedient "TGIF!" but I don't want you to forge a link, even subliminally, between the Little Sparrow and a TGIFriday's. When I think of TGIFriday's, I think of 1500-calorie Mudslides and servers who don suspenders. When I think of The Little Sparrow, I conjure an undiscovered boite in the far West Village, perhaps located in the shadow of the Meatpacking District but miles apart in milieu, where I can order a crisp, neatly prepared cocktail... probably from a guy donning suspenders. But not while also wearing a striped polo shirt.

The Little Sparrow

(Tweaked from the little cocktail recipe book that comes with every bottle of St.-Germain)

2 ounces Calvados

1 1/4 ounces sweet vermouth

3/4 ounces St.-Germain

1 dash Peychaud bitters

Lemon twist, to garnish

Stir all liquid ingredients briskly in an ice-filled mixing glass or cocktail shaker, until right after your boss leaves the office so you can hightail it out of there. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with lemon twist.

Tasting Notes:

As you can see in the pic, the original recipe calls for a  teensy bit of applejack as well, which we didn't have. Feel free to throw in some Remy Martin if you like, or don't worry about it.

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The North Garden

We close Death & Company week with a cocktail that, on paper, scares the hypothetical caca out of me. A drink made up of three hard liquors, and when I read the names of three hard liquors and one of them is bourbon (facilitator of happy Rose) and one of the others of them is scotch (moody-bordering-on-surly Rose) and then there's simple syrup -- well, it makes me not trust the simple syrup, makes me paranoid that the simple syrup's lurking in there as some sort of sleight-of-hand trick with the scotch dodging behind it and getting away with murder, and I think this is not going to be a very productive Friday night.

Except I'm wrong on all counts. This is a lovely cocktail that begins with a note of apple crispness and ends with a tongue-tingling kicker of scotch, and in the middle it's got a big, warm, fat belly. I drink a lot of drinks, but I can't honestly recall the last time a drink had me wondering after just one, "Why am I in such a good mood? Nothing particularly awesome happened this week, right? Oh, wait, it is this cocktail what I'm drinking."

OK, I may not be wrong on the unproductive-Friday-night part. Have a good weekend, all!

The North Garden

(Adapted from Death & Co.)

2 ounces Busnel Fine Calvados

3/4 ounce Buffalo Trace Bourbon

1/2 ounce Dewar's

1/2 ounce simple syrup

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Lemon peel, for garnish

Stir all ingredients briskly with ice. Serve in cocktail glass and garnish with lemon twist.

Tasting Notes:

I deviated from Death & Co.'s recipe in a few significant ways, all of them because I didn't have the right ingredients at home. For those keeping score, I used calvados and Dewar's where Death & Co. respectively calls for Lairds Bonded Applejack and Laphroaig 10-year Scotch. Also, places like Death & Co. often list "demerara" on their menus. This is a fancier way of saying turbinado sugar, aka natural brown sugar (as opposed to the unnatural brown sugar I make in my kitchen by mixing molasses into refined granulated white sugar). I just use simple syrup whenever Death & Co. calls for demerara.

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