Quick story: A few years ago I made the transition from barista to bartender. The place where I worked was great for learning the basics, but it wasn’t at the level of craft cocktail bars and mixology had yet to really take off in DC. Unenamored with bartending, I went back to working in a think tank. To celebrate my new job I booked a trip to San Francisco, where I visited Bourbon and Branch and a few other places that opened my eyes to how good craft bartending can be: precise measures, freshly squeezed juices, seasonal ingredients, etc. That experience is what set me on my current path of cocktail blogging and abandoning the East Coast for the Pacific Northwest.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying that though I didn’t make it to the finals in this weekend’s cocktail competition at the Great American Distiller’s Festival, I can’t complain about who I lost out to: Ali Tahsini from Bourbon and Branch. The guy’s a fun, talented bartender and went on to take second, a solid feat given that he had to come up with an on-the-spot cocktail using ouzo. Fellow Portlander and DC escapee Evan Zimmerman won first.
I was happy with the way my cocktail turned out and it got a great reception both at the competition and at Carlyle. It’s a tasty fall drink combining whiskey, apples, spice, and smoke:
2 oz Stranahan’s Colorado whiskey
.75 oz spiced apple cider gastrique
1 Tbsp smoked apple purée
1 dash Angostura bitters
pickled crab apple garnish
Shake over ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass; garnish with slice of crab apple on skewer.
This is another drink that benefited immensely from collaboration with the chef at Carlyle. It was his idea to smoke the apples and they really made the drink. The apples were poached Jonagolds which were then smoked over applewood chips. We puréed these along with a little smoked butter for extra depth and smoothness. It came out deliciously and if I wasn’t saving it for drinks I would have eaten it as is.
The gastrique was made with apple juice, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, and sugar. The spiced, pickled crab apple is from Robert Lambert and made the perfect garnish, along with saving me the trouble of poaching my own apples that probably wouldn’t have been nearly as good anyway.
The cocktail is essentially an update to the Stone Fence, the drink Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain boys supposedly consumed before storming Fort Ticonderoga. I admire anyone who drinks hard and attacks the government, so I named it after him.