Monday, March 3, 2014

Getting to know American history through the spirits they once imbibed!

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

The area where George Washington spent his winter campaign in 1779 through 1780 is known as Jockey Hollow, here in New Jersey.

Just about the only things that weren’t burned for heat during these appallingly cold winters were apple trees and ramshackle buildings which housed the Continental army.Apple trees represented two things to the poorly treated soldiers, food and liquor.Apples offered fermentation and intoxication to the soldiers because many of the early soldiers came from European countries where apple distillation was part of the social thread. Why is this important? It is because if you enjoy Apple Brandy or Apple Jack, you are drinking American History.The soldiers of this region in conjunction with local apple mills were able to eek out a modest amount of the highly intoxicating substance, helpful when the temperature is hovering around zero.  While the officers were sipping fine brandy and Port at the Jacob Ford’s Mansion in nearby Morristown, it must be assumed that applejack and perhaps rye whiskey were acting like a foil against the brutally cold, winter weather. 

Rye whiskey and applejack may have also enable the starving soldiers to ignore the boredom of servitude
and the ever-present cold while serving in the Continental Army.Rye Whiskey came down from the Northern European settlers of Pennsylvania and northern New York State.  Rye is a highly sturdy grain.  Tough enough to grow in poor soil conditions and easily transported.  A field of rye can fit in your pockets.  A field of corn may take several sacks of seed, making it more difficult to propagate.

Rye is a rough drink that draws its character from the grain itself.  When cooked, as is the procedure for making bread or beer, the hard shell splits open and reveals magic!  This magic doesn’t appeal to everyone though, just as not everyone likes rye bread for a sandwich.  When rye is allowed to ferment in the wrong way, which is with too much moisture and temperature, it becomes something called ergot.  Ask the history books about Salem, Massachusetts and their batch of electric rye bread and the burning of the witches. 

Rye is full-bodied, cinnamon and dry, dry, dry in the mouth. It can be highly alcoholic!  It doesn’t usually appeal to every drinker, far from.   Rye is certainly a acquired taste!  But please, don’t despair; Rye when mixed with Applejack or Apple Brandy is a very beguiling drink.  It’s a drink that will put you, at least historically – back into the 1700’s.  And for those of us who love history and especially the liquors of the early America, with rye, you can drink history. 

How would you drink history?  DrinkupNY is well versed in many historically correct spirits.  Madeira, the drink of the landed English gentry is sold, as is Port, Sherry and Cider.  Rum is sold at DrinkupNY, a favorite of sailors and pirates of this era. There are also all types and varieties of eau de vie and Cognac.  Brandy would have certainly been on the table if you just came across the long pond on a ship from England to fight a determined foe. 

The history of distilling is rife with combinations that pre-date our nation’s history.  Isn’t it comforting to know that these ingredients would go on to enjoy a bright future?  That future is the drink within your glass.  And with fresh ice cut from a hand harvested block in the winter, (yes, it can be from your local ice-house, or perhaps one of those ‘perfect’ cubes from glace luxury ice) you will experience history, sip by sip.

I’m very fond of Laird’s Apple Brandy.  It’s the oldest distillery in our country and for good reason.  The love of the apple permeates all portions of our diet.  Apples are easily grown and when fermented offers a real mule kick of a buzz.  I’m a firm believer in the power of Laird’s “Bottled in Bond” 100 Proof, Apple Brandy.  It’s made of up apple varieties that are just too tart for normal eating, but when crushed and fermented, the fun all right there.  Oak barrels cradle the apple brandy for a period of time and when it is deemed ready to drink, the brandy is bottled for your table.  Apple Brandy, for those who don’t know is akin to the apple brandies are produced in the European countries.  Apple Brandy is potent stuff that has warmed the stomachs of thirsty drinkers for generations.  Vanilla and baking spice give way to notes of brown butter and caramel.  There are the warmer flavors of freshly toasted bread tucked in there as well.  Laird’s Bottled in Bond is a gorgeous slurp of pre-Colonial history in every sip.  Which leads me to the rye component of this piece. 

I’ve found that Dad’s Hat Rye is every bit as delicious as some of the more expensive, boutique ryes on the market.  It’s certainly assertive in the glass when sipped straight and but as always, how you enjoy your whiskey is strictly up to you.  May I suggest trying something slightly sweet and aromatic, like Laird’s Bottled in Bond Apple Brandy to mix with your Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey?   Sure you could use any of the Laird’s sumptuous products, they all become a thing of excitement when mixed with Dad’s Hat. 

Apple Brandy just calls out for rye whiskey!  Don’t argue so much!  Sip!

Babbling Purgatorial Fizzy

2 oz. Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey
¾ oz. Laird’s Bottled in Bond 100 Proof Apple Brandy- or whatever Laird’s you own
¾ oz. Doc’s Draft Hard Pear Cider (the fizzy kind) or hard sparkling natural apple cider should you not be able to find pear cider
½ oz. Pear Nectar- all natural preferred
5 drops Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters
either hand made ice or Glace Luxury ice cubes – ice should be crystal clear!

You can make crystal clear ice by boiling distilled water twice and using a silicone tray to freeze to your specified size. 

To a Cocktail Mixing vessel, fill ¾ with ice
Add the liquid ingredients except for the bitters…
Stir 30 times
Pour into a Collins Glass with your hand made ice and dot with the Aromatic Bitters

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

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