Entrepreneur. Cocktail and spirit champion. Old world wine provocateur.
Recently, some bar customers issued me a challenge, asking if I could recreate (on the spot) their annual tradition of dunking apple cider donuts in apple cider. They wanted it to be recreated as a cocktail, where a single sip would emulate the flavors and textures of the donut, the apple cider, and the “little floating pieces of the donut that get caught in the cider”. No problem, right? Given a ten minute time frame, here is what I did.
I started compiling a list of ingredients that fit with the apple and fall theme. Two obvious choices were apple cider and maple syrup, the syrup being used to recreate the sweetness of the donut. Maple syrup is a great pairing with bourbon, so I chose Bulleit Bourbon alongside spiced rum. That liquor combination, i surmised, would give a little spice, some oak notes, and vanilla. To round the cocktail out I decided on lemon juice and bitters. No fuss, well-balanced and approachable.
Although I hoped that would recreate the flavors, it certainly wouldn’t recreate the experience very well. I needed more. So, I pulled some apple butter, make quick quenelles, and threw them in the fryer. Apple butter actually contains no butter, but is simply a reduction of apples and apple cider. It has a really concentrated apple flavor and a soft texture. I figured that little bits of fried apple butter might float in the drink, adding loads of flavor and a texture similar to fried donuts. To finish off the experience, I mixed sugar and bitters together and rimmed the glass. The bitters and sugar combined to give an allspice/cinnamon/clove sugar concoction with each sip.
Overall, the recreation was pretty successful! It turns out that apple butter doesn’t float, so it needed some coaxing to come to the top. But the flavors were fall all the way through and the bitters soaked sugar added a nice sweet and fall driven touch to each sip. Here is the final cocktail recipe I used.
A Cocktail in the Hand is Worth Two Apple Cider Donuts in the Bush
1.5 oz Bulleit Bourbon
0.5 oz Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
0.5 oz lemon juice
0.5 oz maple syrup
0.75 oz apple cider
Angostura Bitters, Sugar, and Apple Butter
Shake all ingredients excepted the bitters and sugar and serve up in a v shaped glass. Rim the glass with the Angostura bitters soaked sugar and garnish with fried pieces of apple butter. To fry the apple butter, make a quenelle, coat it in flour and drop it in some hot oil. The outside should crisp up while the center stays liquid. Whhhhhaaaaaa??? I know.