Summer is in full swing here on the Western Slope of Colorado. We’ve had a couple of days nearing 100ºF, and both the garden and the vineyard are responding to the heat. It’s definitely hitting us hard, so we’ve been retreating indoors midday to keep our cool. So, here I am, sitting at my kitchen table and sharing this cocktail with you, ice water in hand. Mid-July is when my husband and I hit our stride and feel like we are constantly tying up grapevines, trellising sprawling tomato vines, and putting up an endless fight with surging weeds.
It’s all energizing and all so tiring. But it’s the “good” kind of tiring, you know? The kind where you come inside at the end of a hard day outside, hit the shower, make a chilled drink, and fall asleep hard.
I’m sharing a cocktail recipe I shot and developed in early May, right before we undertook the task of planting 4,700 new, grafted grapevines. The last few weeks are honestly a blur to me, and I’m finally resurfacing from that crazy endeavor. I didn’t want the summer to get away from me without sharing this aromatic, ginger-driven whiskey cocktail with you.
It’s summery, bright, refreshing, and filled with notes of ripe apples and spice, and it features a Bourbon Barrel-Aged Pommeau from one of my favorite Colorado cider producers, Big B’s, located right here in the North Fork Valley, just about a half-mile down the road from my house.
How lucky am I?!
Have you tried a pommeau before?
Essentially, it’s categorized as a mistelle, which is fruit juice that’s combined with a distilled spirit. Pommeau is enjoyed as an aperitif, oftentimes simply poured over ice. It’s incredible as a cocktail component, however, and Big B’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Pommeau has just the right balance of sweetness and complexity.
Head cider-maker, Shawn Larson, crafts his pommeau with local, organic, fresh-pressed Winesap apples, grown here in the North Fork Valley. He then ferments the juice and ages in the cellar, which he then has Peach Street Distillery, a craft distillery in Palisade, Colorado, distill it into an apple eau de vie. To create the final product, Shawn blends this apple eau de vie with fresh, organic apple juice, along with a touch of hard cider, and then lets it further develop in used bourbon barrels for 12 months.
In Shawn’s words, “The results are a one-of-a-kind artisan-style apple brandy. Sporting an enticing apple and bourbon nose, combined with the flavors of vanilla and smoke, this slow-sipper will charm just about any palate.”
I 100% agree.
It’s one of my favorite cocktail ingredients, and it’s also incredible when paired with stone-fruit tarts, funky bleu cheeses, and ripe summer melons.
THAT SUMMER BUZZ
- 1 1/2 ounces bourbon
- 3/4 ounce Big B’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Pommeau or apple brandy of choice
- 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce ginger-honey syrup (see recipe below)
- 2-3 dashes DRAM Black Bitters
- apple blossoms, for garnish
- In a mixing tin, combine the bourbon, pommeau, lemon juice, and honey syrup.
- Add ice and shake well.
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, add the bitters, and garnish with apple blossoms, a fresh or dehydrated apple slice, or other seasonal, edible flowers.
- This recipe yields one drink.
- I use a 1:1 (honey:water) syrup for this cocktail. For a little extra depth or a change of flavors, make a cardamom or cinnamon honey syrup, especially if you’re making this in cooler, cozier weather.
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup water
- 2″ fresh ginger
- Remove the skin from the ginger root and coarsely chop the ginger into small chunks.
- In a small saucepan, combine the honey, water, and ginger chunks.
- Over low heat, bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring along the way. Continue to simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes, until honey is integrated and the ginger begins to soften.
- Remove from the heat and let the syrup fully cool to room temperature, allowing the ginger to further infuse into the syrup. You can even let the ginger steep for a couple of hours to really pull out the spicy notes.
- Strain the solids and store the syrup in the fridge.
- You may substitute minced, fresh ginger from the tube – it’s such a time-saver – you’ll only need about two teaspoons, as it’s an even exchange for freshly chopped ginger root.
- The syrup will keep for up to one month, refrigerated.
Let me know if you make this cocktail or give the honey syrup a unique twist!
The recipe is a breeze to make, and the ingredients are easily sourced. Our apple tree had a successful flowering season and fruit-set, so if the squirrels don’t get to the apples first, it will be a bountiful late-summer harvest for us.
Our vineyard began its journey as an apple orchard, which was ripped out and replaced with grapevines in the early 1980s. Only one apple tree remains from that original planting, and we baby the heck out of it. We pruned it hard this spring, to really give it a healthy start, and I forced the buds from the pruned wood to flower. They made the most beautiful, aromatic garnishes for this drink.
I hope you are thoroughly enjoying your summer season and are filling it with late-evening, alfresco dinners and walks in the garden – yours or a neighbor’s – and cool, slow mornings. I’m definitely carving room and making space for moments like these. They keep me grounded, slow me down, deepen my sense of peace, and spark my creativity.