Welcome to the first of our new Alphatini series where we take a look at 26 varieties of the classic martini and come up with the best possible version of each, maybe even creating some new ones on the way.
A is for Apple
If we, in our gin-soaked haze, remember nothing else from those early learning years it’s that A is indeed for apple. That big, red, juicy fruit purported to keep the doctor away with one a day, win us extra points with the teacher and even find the first initial of our true love in it’s peel. Whether piled high in a pie, cooked down to sauce or juiced for convenience we’ve all had some sort of experience with apples in our life.
And while apples come in reds, greens, yellows and combinations thereof, exactly when did they become neon-hued and sour? While we may have become used to the chartreuse cocktail billed as an Appletini, it resembles an alcoholic candy more than what some believe the serpent tempted Eve with.
Let’s see if we can’t come up with something better, shall we?
Surveying the Orchard
Taking a quick stroll through bartending guides and web recipe repositories, the Appletini always seems to have a vodka base (sometimes a flavored vodka but often plain). The other main ingredient is apple schnapps–usually the sour sort like DeKuypers Apple Pucker. It’s not a bad ingredient, really, but I’d like to at least see a little apple juice in my apple martini (I know, shocking), not just booze. What I certainly don’t need is sour mix, citrus soda or cranberry juice mucking around my glass. They’re all find ingredients in their own right (well, except the sour mix–make your own!), just not what we really need here.
What could we add instead? Obvious would be apple juice or you could go even more direct with some apple puree. If you want to invoke the feel of a warm apple pie some vanilla and cinnamon would not go amiss (hello, vanilla vodka and maybe some cinnamon schnapps or syrup), even some condensed milk shaken in for that a la mode vibe. Or you could go a little classier with some Calvados (apple brandy) and a cinnamon stick for a cider-like cocktail.
In Search Of…
Once, in a fairly decent chain restaurant, late one night after a holiday concert, I was intrigued enough to order a Caramel Apple Martini expecting something I wanted to just curl up in and take a nap. Instead what was brought to me was thin-tasting, bitter and gritty from the powdered cinnamon around the rim. The only thing it had in common with a real caramel apple was that it was sticky.
It’s so sad when a drink doesn’t live up to the menu’s hype.
Enter my solution: a dreamy, creamy caramel apple flavor with just a hint of spice. It’s definitely a dessert drink and even with less than 2 oz alcohol in there it’s pretty potent (the sugary ones always are). Sip it slowly and savor it.
Caramel Apple Spice Martini
1 1/4 oz Vanilla Vodka
1 1/4 oz Apple Juice
1/2 oz Caramel Sauce
1/4 oz Cinnamon Schnapps
Garnish: cinnamon-demerara sugar, apple slice, cinnamon stick
Combine the vodka, juice, caramel sauce and schnapps in a cocktail shaker over ice. Give it a good, long shake to toss the caramel sauce around and strain into a chilled cocktail glass rimmed with cinnamon-demerara sugar. Garnish with a slice of apple and a cinnamon stick.
The “secret” is to use a caramel sauce and not a syrup–the syrup will give a thinner mouth-feel and can have a very chemical edge to it. And yes, I mean sauce like you’d use for ice cream topping. When you mix the cinnamon sugar, go easy on the cinnamon–it really doesn’t take more than a sprinkle in a quarter cup of sugar (I prefer demerara for the natural color and large crystals) to get the point across without any grittiness.
For an extra treat, try sipping the drink through the cinnamon stick!