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Caramel Apple Charged Punch

Sometimes the drink you end up making is not the one you were expecting. I was planning to make a drink with dark rum and Cynar this morning, but last week I bought a bottle of Laird’s bonded apple brandy, and I was just itching to mix with it. I’ve tried Laird’s applejack in the past, but it was a mediocre product, astringent upon the palate and disappointing in its concentration of apple flavor. The bonded version was slightly more expensive, but it is bursting with good apple flavor, and smooth enough that I was not offended when I sipped it neat.

Creating your own drinks on the fly is always a lot of fun, because it teaches you much more about mixology than just making someone else’s recipe. The end result isn’t always good, but it’s always an opportunity to learn. This drink is technically a charged punch, meaning the aqueous element is carbonated, and the primary components feature citrus juice prominently. I’m terrible at naming the drinks I make, so I just call them what they are.

Caramel Apple Charged Punch

1.5 oz Bonded Apple Brandy (Laird’s)
.75 oz Averna
.5 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2 oz. Ginger Beer (Rachel’s)

Shake all except ginger beer, strain and pour over fresh ice. Insert a straw through an apple wheel for a garnish, and then let a few drops of lemon juice coat the apple to prevent browning.

For my personal taste, a drink without a bitter component is usually not very interesting, which is why I stock a large variety of amari. When I first tasted Averna I did not care for it, as I thought it had an off petrochemical note. Moreover, I dislike the mouthfeel of caramel coloring, and it was clear to me that the makers of Averna had added some. The flavor eventually grew on me, as most spirits do, and I now reach for it when I am looking for an element of burned caramel.

I made the shaken portion of this drink in a ratio of 6:3:2, which I have found works very well for base spirit:liqueur:sour type potions. The intensity of the citrus flavor will often overpower the liqueur if they are used in equal measure, and this is easy to account for. The most important thing to do when freestyling a drink is to constantly taste it as you add each new ingredient. Whatever it tastes like before you shake it, it’s going to taste pretty similar once it’s cold. Dilution and chill will modify the flavor a bit, but you can be confident that if it tastes great before you shake it, it will taste great after.

I purchased a bottle of Rachel’s ginger beer a couple of weeks ago, knowing that I would use it to top a cocktail at some point, and I thought it would be just the thing to turn this into a long drink. Rachel’s is a local brand of Seattle ginger beer, but I was dismayed to discover that they add lemon juice to their product before bottling. It makes their soda complex and dry, but it completely clobbered the subtler flavors of Averna and apple.

My first shot at this drink left me dissatisfied, so I bought a bottle of Blenheim ginger ale, which is by far the best commercially made ginger ale, owing to its supreme ginger heat. It lacks the rich flavor and body of a ginger beer, but it has a spicy effervescence that fills my sinuses when I sip it plain. The lighter flavor of the Blenheim proved to be a perfect match for this combination of ingredients, with the ginger taking a back seat to the caramel apple flavor, while still contributing a spice note after the sip. I didn’t have any apples for round two, so I was forced to make do with a lime wheel.

Caramel Apple Charged Punch (Round 2)

1.5 oz Bonded Apple Brandy (Laird’s)
.75 oz Averna
.5 oz Lime Juice
3 oz. Spicy ginger ale (Blenheim)

Shake all except ginger beer, strain and pour over fresh ice. Insert a straw through an apple wheel for a garnish, and then let a few drops of  lime juice coat the apple to prevent browning.

This drink is perfect for summer, and soothing to the digestion.