This year, celebrate New Year's Eve with all-American verve by offering a twist on the classic French 75 -- made with Apple Brandy, or Apple Jack, America's first spirit. This recipe comes to us by way of Justin Pike, bartender extraordinaire of The Tasting Kitchen in Venice. What makes it convenient is that it can be made as a single-serving punch or batched up for a larger group. So no matter how intimate or wild your gathering, this punch has you covered.
With the rampant growth of apple trees in the New World, it was only natural that enterprising settlers would ferment apple juince, turning it into homemade apple brandy. Enter a fellow named William Laird, a Scotsman who settled in apple-rich Monmouth County , New Jersey in 1698. Soon after, Laird started distilling Applejack for himself and his friends. Records from the Colts Neck Inn -- built by one of Laird's descendants -- in 1780 show 'cyder spirits', aka Applejack, as a common menu offering. Then, in the 1820s, an enterprising evangelist nicknamed Johnny Appleseed, spread apple seeds and apple brandy distillation lessons among all who would listen. An industry was born.
Pike's punch riffs on the familiar and elegant French 75, a sparkling cocktail that shakes gin or brandy with simple syrup and lemon juice and tops it off with Champagne or a similar bubbly. Here Pike has taken inspiration from the Goldrush cocktail -- bourbon, honey syrup (essentially a simple syrup), and lemon juice, then topped it with sparkling in an All-American sort of "75."
Honey syrup is simply three parts honey mixed with one part hot water to make it mixable. The choice of bitters is your own. Angostura would work admirably; Pike favors Miracle Mile Forbidden Bitters with its exotic and familiar spices, including galangal, cinnamon and clove.
When Pike makes large batches, he buys an ice block from Ralph's, cuts it in half and places it in the punch bowl with all the ingredients except the sparkling, and tops the punch off with bubbly when guests arrive. Whether a single serving or a punch bowl presentation, this is a crisp, refreshing yet still wintery palate pleaser.
Apple Brandy "75" Cocktail
From: Justin Pike
Makes: 1 drink
1 ounce bonded Laird's Apple Brandy or Applejack
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce cocktail honey (see above)
2 dash bitters
5 ounces sparkling wine
1. Combine first four ingredients in a shaker and shake briskly.
2. Strain into a champagne flute.
3. Top with sparkling wine.
4. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Apple Brandy "75" Punch for a Crowd
24 ounces bonded Laird's Apple Brandy or Applejack
12 ounces freshly squeezed, strained lemon juice
8 ounces cocktail honey
48 dashes bitters
4-5 bottles bubbles (to taste)
1. Combine first four ingredients in a mixing bowl.
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2. Place ice or ice block in punch bowl.
3. Top with sparkling wine.
Lesley blogs at 12 Bottle Bar, tweets at @12BottleBar and is the author of the book "Gin: A Global History." Email her at email@example.com. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.