It’s the U.S.’s original spirit, and thanks to heirloom apples being grown in every part of the country, it’s making a big comeback. So why aren’t you drinking it?
Let’s get something straight: Apple brandy is not the sweet green stuff that went in apple martinis back in the ’90s. (God only knows what that was.) Apple brandy is a strong liquor distilled from apples. It’s bottled at 80 proof or higher, and it was made in America before there was a United States. (In France they call it Calvados.) Abraham Lincoln served it at his tavern. George Washington made it himself. There’s a story about William Faulkner mixing it with hot water and lemon, lighting it on fire, and calling the result a Jersey Lighthouse.
So does it taste like apples? Not in a Jolly Rancher way, but, yes, it does evoke an orchard—the leathery tannins of apple skin, leaves crunching underfoot. Add the baking-spice flavors that come from oak whiskey barrels, and you’ve got a world-class sipping spirit. Because there’s hardly a place in this country where apples don’t grow, small distilleries are bringing this heritage spirit back to the mainstream, from the Cascades to the White Mountains. Drink it like you would whiskey: neat, on the rocks, or in a simple cocktail like the Marconi Wireless. You can find apple brandy year-round, but there’s something autumnal about it. In other words, best drink it now.