I’m also a fan of cyser, a style of mead made by mixing honey and apple cider. Apples and honey naturally taste great with spices like cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. Apple pie cyser is like a trip to my babysitter Wilma’s house where I spent afternoons as a kid. She always seemed to be putting the finishing touches on some irresistible dessert when I got there.
There was an especially good bourbon barrel aged apple pie style mead on my shelf at home. I had been wracking my brains trying to think of ways to incorporate it into a cocktail, when one morning I woke up with the inspiration to replace the Italian vermouth in my Manhattan with this exceptional mead. A bolt from the blue! I was so excited! I wanted to rush downstairs and mix the drink up right then and there, but it was 7am on a Monday and drinking cocktails is not my full time job.
Ignoring the urge to dawn drink, I went about my day like a responsible adult, with visions of charred oak barrels and apple pie fairies dancing in my head the whole time. When I finally got home, it was time for the real work to begin.
I began building my Manhattan in the usual way: I added bourbon and ice to a cocktail shaker, then the bourbon barrel aged apple pie cyser, a dash of Angostura bitters, and stir. I always stir drinks like Manhattans and martinis with a long spoon instead of shaking. Stirring incorporates less air than shaking, and a crystal clear cocktail is the reward.
I strained the drink into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Things were going well. I planned to use a cherry, but instead I squeezed a drop of fresh lemon juice onto a sliced red apple, and the Big Apple was born.
When I tasted it, the first thing I noted was that it didn’t taste like apple. The spiced cyser added richness and fire to the bourbon, with just enough caramel sweetness to make it very easy to drink. I mentioned that the apple slices I used had lemon juice added to them. This does a great job of keeping apples fresh, but the hint of lemon also added a layer of flavor and aroma that worked as a nice top note to balance out the drink. Apple pie mead does not have the botanical complexity of good vermouth, and the splash of lemon helps to brighten this drink. A bite of bourbon-infused apple slice at the end was very refreshing.
For the garnish:
- Squeeze lemon juice onto apple slices and set aside.
For the drink:
- 2 oz. bourbon or rye
- 1 oz. Apple pie style cyser
- Dash of bitters
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and stir. Serve up or on the rocks. Garnish with an apple slice.
Pair with sharp cheddar, bacon wrapped dates, roasted cashews, and more apple slices.