If the spectacle of sheep drunk on fermented apples and stumbling around orchards made you jealous in the fall, there is a perfect way to warm up your winter. Packing more punch than cider, Tree Vodka makes a refreshing addition to the seasonal selection. The new spirit is made from fresh-picked apples grown on DeFisher Fruit Farms in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. First, the fruit is brewed into hard cider, which is then further processed, one small batch at a time, into vodka. About 60 gallons of apples go into each potent bottle, when all is distilled and done.
The drink's finish isn't anything like the candy-apple, sugar-loaded burn that you get with liquors flavored after the fact. Tree Vodka is a neutral spirit, but it's made from the main ingredient in apple pie rather than ethanol. It has the clear tang of regular vodka and a fresh apple scent, which serves as a pleasant prelude to the warming heat that chases it down your throat.
David DeFisher of Apple Country Spirits, which makes Tree Vodka, recommends drinking it on the rocks with a splash of tonic. The tonic lightens up the liquor and lets its fruity flavor come out. It's a way to make that old standby, the vodka tonic, interesting again – and you don't even have to slice up a lime. If you want to go one step further, DeFisher suggests adding a splash of fruit-infused balsamic vinegar. A little fig vinegar, we think, would be the perfect touch for a sip by the fire.
When it comes to Tree Vodka, there is one catch: The spirit is currently only available at liquor stores in New York State. That will certainly change as the brand catches on, but, for now, you'll have to get your buddy in Hillsdale or Watkins Glen to send you a bottle. [$30]