When it came time for America to stake a claim on a spirit of its own—coincidentally during the decades surrounding its own founding—Northeastern pioneers and even presidents needed only to look up at the trees. An abundance of apples combined with a revolutionary thirst led to the first applejack, named for its process of “jacking,” or freeze distilling, which started in New Jersey among smaller farmers and spread through the colonies into Appalachia and wherever else Johnny’s trail of fertile apple seeds led.
Before long, the practice of jacking was left behind as traditional distilling became dominant for a more refined product—as was the name, when the interchangeable term “American apple brandy” came about as a more generally accurate catch-all. And though the commercial version of apple brandy was similar to what the French had been doing for more than a century with Calvados (which can sometimes include pears and is often lower proof for a lighter experience), the US endeavor remained a point of patriotic pride and a very regular part of colonial life. That is, until other leviathan liquors—and ultimately Prohibition—all but wiped the amazing apple-based spirit off the top of the charts despite some of the biggest names in the game continuously producing all along.
As with many historical gems dormant through the spinning wheel of cocktail trends, though, American apple brandy has benefited from a modern boom of history-minded spirits makers who place just as great a value on the old as on the new. For evidence, look no further than the bottled-in-bond apple brandies produced across the country today that’ve inspired this box, a distinction that boasts full transparency and provenance, with great respect paid to the apple crop and the place at which it’s distilled.
As we looked ahead and considered the ideal starring spirit for November, a time to be thankful and hopeful heading into the holiday season, capturing the flavors and scents of autumn quickly became the aim. And Fruits of Fall: American Apple Brandy does just that, with an appetizing appley base and equally of-the-moment ingredients for cocktails that’ll nestle right up alongside the best sense memories of the season: crisp weather, fantastic foliage, and aromatic, overworked ovens. Subscribe now through October 31st (while supplies last!) to get the Fruits of Fall Box—it’s slated to ship the week of November 1st.
She once playfully paraded bourbon through the black forest with the Matriarch Martini, but now Haley Traub has set her sights on the mother of all fall cocktails, both fanciful and cozy. Pear Necessities pairs off the apple of the brandy with its pome fruit pal in the form of a shrub that sees the sensational combination of pear and vanilla taking a sharp upturn along with apple cider vinegar. Tying together this tight-knit team, ginger beer brings its bracing bubbles for a flavor of homey harmony and an aroma you’ll wish you could bottle and bask in.
Haley has been bartending in NYC for nearly a decade. In 2018 she won the national title in Speed Rack, an all-female speed bartending competition that benefits breast cancer research and education. She is currently the general manager at Attaboy, a cocktail bar on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
With this freshly in-season cocktail, Leah Moss looked to the once-forgotten classic Jack Rose for inspiration. She’s packed in some neat and nuanced late-fall flavors: a grenadine riff enriched by bright cranberries, a dash of aromatic bitters, and fervently fruity apple brandy, all lifted up by lime and a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg on top. Setting the table for a big holiday feast? Save a spot for the Rougeoisie, an uplifting sip that’s bound to become a staple at any end of year festivity.
Leah has been bartending in NYC since 2004. She’s won awards, including Speed Rack Tristate 2019 and NY Cocktail Expo’s Best Cocktail in NY 2019, and has worked at various cocktail bars where she maintains a love of vermouth and making delicious, beautiful cocktails. She currently works at the Up & Up, a cocktail bar in the West Village of Manhattan.
In honor of the trees starting to set forth their fireworks displays of rich reds, oranges, and yellows, here’s an old fashioned that harbors the arbor with one such tasty type. To boost a syrup modeled to capture the flavors of chai, Jason Kilgore chose birch, which twists the warm spices with a touch of minty wintergreen. With such soft essences swirling around, it takes a spirit of great stature to carry the cocktail and, in Wolfe & Wehr, bottled-in-bond apple brandy takes center stage, pitching in its apple, wood, and spice flavors with a clearly defined voice for a stiff and warming autumn celebration.
Jason currently resides in Brooklyn, but his talents span the boroughs. He runs the bar programs at Top Quality and the forthcoming Lower Quality in Long Island City and can often be found behind the bar at Dear Irving in Manhattan and [bā’sik] in Brooklyn.
To get straight to the core of the starring element of our Fruits of Fall: American Apple Brandy Box, we immediately knew the first folks to call: some of our favorite fellow NYC-based cocktail superstars. Follow us down the trail on this “Big Apple” bonanza, full of tastes tailored to the times and all the best that autumn has to offer!
The Shaker & Spoon Team
*not vegan: nothing
*potential allergens: Candied ginger originally processed in a facility that processes peanuts, tree nuts.