I don’t know why during the holidays we’re willing to attempt feats of culinary daring that normally we’d greet with a “Hmph. I’m going to Quiznos.” But for one month of the year, “labor-intensive” and “old-fashioned” are plusses, not minuses. We devote countless hours to making Eggnog from scratch, hand-glazed hams and real, honest-to-goodness pie, not to mention antique exotica like oyster stuffing and hot Tom & Jerry.
That being the case, it’s the right time to resurrect the Apple Toddy. Once as much an American tippling icon as the Mint Julep or the cocktail itself, the Apple Toddy has just about been forgotten by the American drinker. No bartender wants to bake apples and boil water just to make a drink, even if that drink is as rich, warming and delicious as anything in the book. But go that extra mile and you’ll end up with something truly American. Something beloved by presidents (Madison and Monroe both favored it) and backwoodsmen alike and one of the few things that we all—whether Connecticut Yankee, Marylander or “Kentuck”—could agree on..
Contributed by David Wondrich
- Half a baked Macintosh apple
- Heaping teaspoon sugar
- 2 oz Boiling water
- 2 oz Bonded applejack (Laird’s), cognac (Martell VSOP) or bourbon (Woodford Reserve)
Garnish: Grated nutmeg
Fortunately, the labor-intensive part of this drink lies solely in baking the apples. Take half as many Macintosh apples as you’d like to make drinks, core them, peel them and wrap them in wet parchment paper. Bake them in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes until completely soft. Set aside to cool. For each drink, warm a heatproof mug by rinsing it with boiling water. Put in half a baked apple and a heaping teaspoon of sugar and muddle them quickly together. Add 1 oz boiling water and stir. Add 2 oz applejack, cognac or bourbon and stir again. Add 1 oz boiling water. (The staggered addition of the water keeps the drink as hot as possible). Grate nutmeg over the top and serve.
David Wondrich is the author of the award-winning book Imbibe! and Esquire magazine’s Drinks Correspondent.