There’s something inherently autumnal about bourbon. Drinking it evokes visions of leaves changing color, days shortening, harvest festivals and cool winds. It also conjures the sights and smells of apple orchards and apple picking. And more than being evocative of the fall fruit, bourbon pairs well with apple in drinks, as it does in the Tender Knob.
The Tender Knob comes from bartending icon H. Joseph Ehrmann. Ehrmann is the owner of Elixir, one of the oldest continually operating taverns in San Francisco. It’s that very city that helps give the Tender Knob its playful name—one area in town is named the Tendernob, a portmanteau to signify where the Tenderloin and Nob Hill neighborhoods intersect. The Tender Knob name is also a play on Knob Creek, the bourbon used in this lively cocktail. A lauded Kentucky bourbon, Knob Creek is a commendable whiskey both for using in high-end cocktails or for drinking straight, either neat or with a bit of ice to help mellow its intensity.
For the apple part of this autumnal drink, Ehrmann muddles apples directly into the shaker and uses a hard apple cider, which transforms the drink into a spritzy highball. These days, cideries are becoming nearly as ubiquitous as breweries. Though there are the big-name cider brands readily available in most markets, plenty of smaller producers are creating special ciders. A pure, unadulterated apple cider is the right pick for this drink.
As for the apples themselves, the recipe calls for Granny Smith or Fuji. Granny Smith apples are tart, while Fuji apples are sweeter than most. With only a single slice in the drink, the apple won’t have too dramatic an impact. Of course, you can always employ your favorite apple variety, just be sure to use an unwaxed, organic version.
Often, bartenders will double-strain a shaken drink, using a handheld strainer to catch errant shards of ice, citrus pulp and other elements that can cloud a drink. Not so with the Tender Knob, as the minuscule bits of apple are essential to the drinks’s appeal.
- 1 slice organic Granny Smith or Fuji apple (1/8-inch wide)
- 1 1/2 ounces Knob Creek bourbon
- 2 ounces hard apple cider
- 3/4 ounce agave nectar
- 1 pinch cinnamon
- Garnish: apple slice
In a shaker, muddle the apple slice.
Add the bourbon, apple cider, agave nectar and cinnamon to a shaker filled with ice, and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a double Old Fashioned glass filled with fresh ice. (Do not double-strain; you want some apple bits in the finished drink).
Garnish with an apple slice.