Our office will celebrate just about anything — birthdays, babies, big wins and big weddings. So the holidays are more than enough reason to keep that trend going.
One Friday a month we all gather in the office around 5 o’clock to catch up, learn a little something and drink cocktails together. We’ve done French 75s, Manhattans, Palomas, and lots of other tasty tinctures.
In December, we created a new custom drink, which brings to mind sweet apples blended with thyme and cinnamon spice, to warm the bones and share with friends of the agency. Let’s walk through the ingredients themselves, then we’ll dive into the recipe for our crafted cocktail, the Pomme Pilot.
Rye Whiskey: In the United States, this is whiskey made from at least 51% rye, distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% alcohol) and barreled in new, charred, white oak barrels at no higher than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol). Our recipe uses Old Forester 100 Proof Rye, but Old Overholt Bottled-in-Bond or Rittenhouse would work well, too.
Calvados: An apple or pear brandy from Normandy. Fresh apples are pressed and fermented into a dry cider, which then gets distilled. The distillate is aged for at least two years in oak casks, et voilà, you’ve got Calvados. Our choice was Berneroy VSOP. You could also use Applejack here; look for Laird’s.
Apple Cider: An unfiltered, unsweetened, non-alcoholic beverage made from apples. Our recipe used Honeycrisp cider. You can substitute for apple juice, but be sure that it’s also unfiltered and unsweetened since regular apple juice may throw off the balance of sweetness in the drink.
Thyme Cinnamon Simple Syrup: Simple syrup is just that: simple. A 1:1 mixture of sugar and water, heated just until the sugar dissolves. To make plain simple syrup – called for in hundreds of cocktails – that’s the end of the process. In this case, add 10-15 sprigs of fresh thyme after pulling the mixture off the heat and allow it to cool. Remove the thyme and strain into a bottle. To add just a bit of spice, drop a cinnamon stick or two into the syrup.
Lemon Juice: If you guessed that lemon juice is the juice that comes from lemons, you nailed it. Fresh citrus juice is always preferable but there are some good bottled alternatives to be found at a reputable grocery store.
Aromatic Bitters: A mystery concoction of alcohol, herbs, spices, roots, et al. A few dashes add spice and roundness to a cocktail. While you might not notice their presence in a cocktail, you’ll definitely notice their absence. Our recipe uses Fee Brothers Old Fashion Aromatic Bitters, thanks to the more pronounced cinnamon and allspice notes in the Fee Brothers variety. Classic Angostura bitters are a fine substitute, but Fee’s is preferable.
Now, let’s get down to brass tacks. How do you make this thing?
*Note: Double straining isn’t strictly necessary, but with fresh citrus juice and lots of tiny ice chips floating around in your shaker, straining your drink over a second fine strainer will keep any lemon pulp and ice shards out. Those little flecks of ice might not seem like a big deal, but they’ll continue to melt in your drink, diluting the cocktail as you go and changing the character of the drink.
Give it a try and let us know what you think! We hope a little bit of liquid cheer makes your holidays that much happier.