It’s that time of year when all of east Tennessee starts thinking about cooler days, turning leaves, Fall wardrobes, family gatherings, feasts and festivities. While it may still be a little too early to start decorating for the holidays (hey, I said “may”… live your best life), it isn’t too soon to start stocking your liquor cabinet for all of your upcoming functions.
Ever heard of apple brandy? It’s an American staple, as classic as apple pie, and it’s been produced in this country since Europeans first settled here. George Washington distilled it himself, and Abraham Lincoln served it in his tavern. During the 1780’s when our region declared itself the independent State of Franklin, apple brandy is listed among the items that were frequently traded in a barter system that was the basis of the local economy.
So, what do you do with it? It’s a strong spirit (usually 80 proof), distilled from pressed apple juice and aged in oak barrels. It’s warm and hearty and perfect for those cool Fall nights. It can be sipped neat or on the rocks, just like your favorite whiskey. It also makes an excellent base for an Old Fashioned or warm winter punch. I included a few recipes below, so you can kick your seasonal celebrations off a bit early!
APPLE BRANDY OLD FASHIONED
2 oz aged apple brandy
.5 oz demerara syrup**
2 dashes Angostura Aromatic bitters
Directions: Combine apple brandy, demerara syrup, and bitters in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until chilled
(about 30 seconds). Strain over large ice cube in fresh glass and garnish with an orange zest.
**To Make Demerara Syrup: combine 1 cup Sugar-in-the- Raw with 1 cup hot water and stir until fully dissolved.
WARM WINTER PUNCH
2 oz apple brandy
6 oz fresh spiced apple cider (not the powdered stuff)
Squeeze of 1/4 lemon
1 tsp local honey (optional)
Dash each of powdered cinnamon and nutmeg
Directions: Combine the apple cider, lemon and honey (depending on how sweet your apple cider is) in a coffee cup and warm in a microwave or on your stove top. Remove from heat and stir in apple brandy, cinnamon and nutmeg before serving. This recipe is great to scale up if you’re expecting company.
Laird’s 12 Year Old Rare Apple Brandy (North Garden, VA), Copper & Kings Floodwall American Apple Brandy (Louisville, KY), and Chemist
Spirits Eau de Vie Unaged Apple Brandy (Asheville, NC).
LAURA CLOER has been slinging drinks and trading tales since 2002. She’s a history buff, with a love for east Tennessee’s origins, drinking lore, and tall tales you only believe after your third drink. She is currently serving as the Beverage Director at Sabores in downtown Johnson City (202 E Main Street). You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Instagram @appalachianlush.