By Lesley Jacobs Solmonson
2 oz Applejack
1 oz Apple Cider
.025 oz (or 1 tsp) Allspice Dram
2 dashes Orange Bitters
Combine ingredients in iced cocktail shaker
Shake & strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass
Float a clove on top
Featured Glassware: New Cottage Amber by Villeroy & Boch
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Ted Haigh came into our lives without ceremony back in 2007 when 12 Bottle Bar was but a whisper on the breeze. For fun, David had been moonlighting on the line at a friend’s restaurant, and a colleague there, after learning of our burgeoning passion for classic cocktails, handed him a slim, glossy paperback, saying, “This was under the seat of my car. Make me one of the drinks in it, and it’s yours.” The book in David’s hand was Ted ’s Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails and its opening salutation – “Greetings, cocktail archeologists!” – welcomed us into a world where just the right combination of alcohol and a few other well-chosen ingredients could create a libation that was a transformative experience. The same sense of transformation could be said of Haigh’s book, which chronicled the history of drink with such devotion and clarity that it altered our view of what a cocktail could – and should – be forever.
As Ted notes in the introduction, “Cocktails symbolized a better world to come, a rainbow around the corner, and, in the bargain, actually produced physical euphoria.” While his statement referred to the repeal of Prohibition and the ensuing cocktail revival, it could just as easily be said of our modern hunger for classic cocktails and all they symbolize. Given that, Ted’s festive Addams’ Apple seems beautifully on-the-nose as one of our ‘Tis the Season… drinks. Not only is the drink itself a bit of history in a glass (symbolic both of the idealism of a new America and the Ted’s commitment to resurrecting forgotten spirits), but the ingredients are certain to produce a distinctly euphoric zing.
I’ll allow dear Mr. Haigh himself to explain the origins of his Apple:
“It dates from the early/mid ‘90s when nobody knew jack about pimento dram. I was on a big applejack kick, there was only one orange bitters on the market (Fee’s) and I’d just bought out the dwindling dram stock of Bohemian Liquor, now defunct, but once a big name along with Southern and Young’s Market in SoCal liquor distribution. The bitters craze was a LONG way in the future, and I wanted to create a drink that contained the undervalued applejack, the still exotic orange bitters, and the rare, legendary, and overtly spicy pimento dram as a secret ingredient. I chose cider for the season and termed it Addams, of course, to honor old Chas, whose cartoons were spicy, zesty, unexpected, and tasty! That was about it.”
I have to thank Ted on many accounts. For the drink, of course, but for more than that – namely, the opportunity to talk about applejack and pimento dram. Granted, neither is on our 12BB list of bottles, but for anyone wanting to expand their liquor selection, you could do far worse. First, the applejack, which is essentially, apple brandy cut with neutral spirit. Long before Americans made whiskey, our Colonial forefathers distilled “cyder spirit”. The plentiful apples harvested across the northeast were fermented into hard cider, which served as the base for applejack. Today, the largest producer is Laird & Co., which long ago, bought up all its competitors. Luckily, the original William Laird passed his expertise down through the generations; today, the company makes applejack, as well as several aged and bottled-in-bond apple brandies.
Which brings us to allspice dram. Just as applejack is a uniquely American product, allspice, or more correctly, pimento dram, has a long history in Jamaica as a rum-based liqueur. This “pimento”, meaning “pepper” in Spanish, has nothing to do with the red pepper filling found in green olives, but rather in the pimento berry, discovered by Spanish explorers in 1509 and dubbed “allspice” by the English because of its combined hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and pepper.
For a long while, the only pimento liqueur was produced by Wray & Nephew (makers of overproof rum), but importing to the U.S. ceased in the 1980s. In the meantime, enthusiastic tiki types started making their own versions of the stuff, which makes a good deal of sense since pimento dram was originally, as Ted has noted, a “homemade folk liqueur” abounding in flavor variations. Back in 2007 on Imbibe magazine’s blog, Ted offered up the Addams’ Apple recipe and also managed to extract two equally lovely dram recipes from Chuck Taggart (gumbopages.com) and the bartender owners of Cuff & Buttons Cocktail Catering, Chad Solomon and Christy Pope. I’ve included a link to the recipes below, should you be so inclined to mix up a batch. According to Ted, both are superb and well worth the effort.
However, if you don’t want to wait a month for your homemade dram to age properly, two bottle-ready versions are available nowadays. The first is a pimento dram from The Bitter Truth, makers of a myriad of bottled bitters; the other, known as St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, is from Haus Alpenz, whose portfolio includes such noteworthy offerings as Black Tot Rum (check out our Christmas Buying Guide), Cocchi Americano, and Dolan Vermouth.
Ted’s decision to marry applejack with allspice dram is an inspired one, creating what the dear doctor himself describes as “a cold cocktail of hot apple pie.” This ode to dessert delights us at 12BB to no end, particularly because instead of being a syrupy, diabetic cream-fest of liqueur upon liqueur, the Addams’ Apple captures the true spirit of dessert sweetness in sophisticated cocktail form. In his original article, Ted also suggested a floating garnish of sliced apple that has soaked in brandy (Calvados, if you can) for a week (no more). “Drink the cocktail, chew the apple.”
With its baking spice accents on top of the apple cider base, the Addams’ Apple strikes me as particularly apropos for the season, an ideal choice for either a cocktail party or a quiet evening in front of the fire. And, while this drink is served cold, it would very likely be just as delightful as a warm pseudo-toddy. Ted, who has been a cocktail aficionado since long before the current craze and has been known for years as “Dr. Cocktail”, recalls that the Addams’ Apple was “called for constantly when Casa de Cocktail still threw its crazy parties, but when bars across the country showed they were coming up to speed, and I was (and am) examining the ongoing fabric of my existence, the parties came to an end and we all chose our moments in public – because we could. As the Clash once opined, ‘the future is unwritten’, so who can know what is to happen from here on, we still can revel in the memories we once made in anticipation of the future!”
While Ted’s wild cocktail shindigs may have, alas, faded into memory, the Addams’ Apple is still alive and kicking. In the best Dickensian Christmas tradition, it is a nod to our cocktailian past, present, and future, from the flavors of the colonial days to the celebration of modern cocktail culture to Ted Haigh’s “anticipation of the future” when all things are still possible.
Esoterica: In the 1820’s Ohio River Valley, eager parishioners listened to the preaching of evangelist John Chapman. Not only did Chapman preach, he also distilled, offering his flock apple seeds and instructing them on how to make applejack. Chapman was better known by his folksy moniker of “Johnny Appleseed”. To this day, applejack is popular in the region.