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G&H Cocktail Club: Bobbing for Merry Brew

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Digging into the lore of bobbing for apples, one might wonder why it’s become an Autumn tradition instead of a Valentine’s Day ritual. What began as a British courting ritual – with ladies trying to bite into the apple that had their preferred beau’s name written on it – somehow turned into an activity that kids could partake in while the adults spiked the apple cider at the neighborhood bonfire. Now that the thought of diving into a trough of apples (and germs) sounds about as enticing as getting on a crowded airplane, let’s focus on the apple cider component of this tradition. 

Warm apple cider is a blanket for the soul, a rite of passage as the nights get colder, and an invitation to spike your drink with everything from rum to whiskey to ginger liqueur. With the proliferation of affordable juicers on the market, it’s become easier to juice the apples yourself, then slowly warm up the fresh juice on the stovetop with herbs and spices. If juicing and straining a bunch of apples sounds too daunting, you can always use Martinelli’s Gold Medal Apple Juice or another store-bought version. Just make sure you’re working with 100 percent pure apple juice. Some aromatic options that pair nicely with apple juice include rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, clove, allspice, nutmeg, and orange or lemon slices to brighten up the spices. 

There is a multitude of different ways to fortify your warm apple cider, so I encourage you to start with what you like – whiskey, rum, or my favorite, apple brandy – and branch out from there. I try to mimic the irresistible flavor of caramel apples by combining apple brandy with Madeira, the smooth fortified wine from the island of the same name. I think of apple brandy and Madeira similar to whiskey and sweet vermouth, the bedrock ingredients in a Manhattan cocktail. When you finally try them together, you’ll wonder how you ever managed to keep them apart. I came upon an old recipe for “Merry Brew” last year when I was doing a charity event that called for a warm, fireside beverage that would appeal to anyone. It has been made for holiday gatherings and outdoor bonfires for centuries. I hope it brings feelings of warmth to you and yours.

VERY MERRY BREW

Prep Time: 10 min

Makes: 3 servings

Ingredients

  • ½ CUP FIRMLY PACKED BROWN SUGAR
  • 3 STICKS OF CINNAMON
  • 1 TABLESPOON WHOLE CLOVES
  • ½ TEASPOON ALLSPICE
  • 1 TEASPOON NUTMEG
  • 4 SPRIGS ROSEMARY
  • 4 SPRIGS THYME
  • 5 SLICES OF ORANGE
  • 2 QUARTS APPLE JUICE

Directions

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