Each season has its own story to tell. Autumn is no different. The moment you step outside, the pages of the season turn in front of you, revealing crimson colours and nature evolving. The sights and aromas are unique to fall, just as it is back inside. When you walk through the door, you’re fueled by the smell. It jumps from the stove and welcomes you. Autumn’s calling card.
As a child, autumn meant many things in my house, but my favourite had to be fresh cider simmering on the stove. When the temperatures dipped, cider would be warming away with the familiar scent of cloves and spices. The promise of a cup of cider always kept me warm inside when I was out fighting through the bitter cold. And instantly brought a smile to my face when I returned home.
On the weekend, we would head out to visit my grandparents, who were about an hour outside the city. Every time we turned up the long paved driveway I could see my grandmother sitting in her familiar spot, the big chair nearest the window. It was her view to the outside world, watching people come and go, many of whom would stop by for a visit. When she didn’t have guests over she would sit there and listen to the birds outside, her door left open so she could be closer to nature. But when we came to visit she would change spots, instead choosing to spend time working away in the kitchen. And in the fall that meant her own cider.
I knew early on that she longed for more than she had. She never held a driver’s license and was dependent on my grandfather and relatives. But the one place she was in total control was in her small, country kitchen. It was there that she spent a good part of her days, preparing food for her husband and family. When we came to visit, she would make brunch and seasonal drinks. In the fall, cider simmered away for a good part of the day and was ladled into mugs whenever we desired it. After a day outside playing in the big oak tree and raking leaves for them, it hit the spot.
To this day, I have a fondness for cider. With time constraints, I’ll pick up some local cider at the market, but nothing compares to taking the time to make your own. And the aroma it creates will stay with you all day. So that’s what I did. Fresh chilled cider as the base for this cocktail. And the combination of spices and flavours makes this drink perfect for the season. It’s been a hit since I started making it. And it only ends when the pitcher runs out.
The Bourbon Bomber
Yield: 10 tall glasses
Glassware: Large rocks glasses
7 1/2 cups apple cider (recipe below)
2 1/2 cups bourbon
2 1/2 cups ice
5 tbsp. agave nectar
2 1/2 tsp. all spice
2 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
5 tsp. nutmeg, grated
10 drops bitters
knob of ginger, grated (about 2 tbsp.)
rosemary sprigs, for garnish
1. Using a cocktail shaker, add a few ice cubes, 1/4 cup bourbon, 3/4 cup apple cider, 1/2 tbsp. agave nectar, 1/2 tbsp. all spice, 1/2 tsp. lemon zest, 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg and a pinch of grated ginger. Shake really well.
2. Using a strainer, strain the drink over an ice-filled rock glass. Top each drink with a drop of bitters and a rosemary sprig.
2. Repeat for each glass.
You can make this into one large pitcher if you prefer or lack the time, but I enjoy making each glass in a cocktail shaker to extract as much flavour as possible. (if you want to make the pitcher, pour all ingredients, minus the bitters, into a pitcher filled with ice but make sure to strain the cocktail before pouring it into each glass. Top with bitters and rosemary sprig)
House-made Apple Cider
Yield: Approx. 2 liters
12 medium apples, quartered
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
3 tbsp. all spice
2 tbsp. cloves
5 tsp. nutmeg, grated
water, to cover
knob of ginger (for the second part)
3 cinnamon sticks (for the second part)
1 tsp. ground nutmeg (for the second part)
1. Using a large stock pot, add your quartered apples and fill with enough water to just cover them. Add the sugar and stir. Wrap the cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg and cloves in a cheese cloth and tie, adding this to the water.
2. Bring to a boil and let boil uncovered for up 45 minutes. Cover and let simmer for a minimum of two hours.
3. Remove from heat and remove the cheese cloth. Roughly mash the remaining contents. Bring back to a simmer until it darkens, roughly thirty minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain the contents to a clean stockpot.
4. In that new stockpot filled with the cider, add the remaining ingredients for the second part; the ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring up to a boil and cover. Immediately remove from heat. Let steep for 30 minutes, off the heat. Strain the cider into a pitcher and let cool before storing in the fridge for later.
If you don’t want to go through the trouble of making your own cider or lack the time, you can use a good quality pressed cider. I believe making your own increases the quality of the cocktail, but a good pressed cider will still work for those in a pinch.
Mike Lewicki is a contributor at The Boys Club and blogger at Verses From My Kitchen.