Taste: Spirits: An Apple a Day

Autumn brings a cornucopia of cider cocktails and wines

Apple is this decade’s hot new drink flavor, as “apple-tinis” approach classic cocktail status and new apple-flavored vodkas and rums edge toward the mainstream. But few regions boast as wide a range of drinks made with real apples as our own. Flavored spirits will do in other seasons, but in autumn, Philadelphians turn to wholesome juices, fresh-picked fruit, and local apple wines.

Health-conscious Farmicia on 3rd Street keeps the doctor away with the Snow Drift, warm organic cider laced with spiced rum. Bianca, in Bryn Mawr, steeps sweet-tart winesaps and Granny Smiths in luscious Knob Creek bourbon for days. The resulting infused whiskey is delicious for sipping alone, for spiking mulled cider, or as the centerpiece of a graceful autumn apple manhattan. Old City’s historic City Tavern combines Pennsylvania cider with a medley of whiskey, peach brandy and rum for its deceptively potent Tavern Cooler. Look for fresh local apples, juices and unfiltered farmhouse ciders in farmer’s markets and grocery stores.

Pennsylvania apple wine is a more unusual regional treat. Smooth and still, apple wine packs a stronger punch and more concentrated flavor than light, fizzy “hard” ciders. From Chester County, Chaddsford’s spiced apple wine is deep and rich, with a heaping helping of dessert spices. Warm, it makes a terrific treat for chilly evenings. Crossing Vineyards’ apple wine from Bucks County is bright and snappy, and best served chilled. It’s a terrific foil for spicy cuisine, like Thai or Indian.

PLCB Pick of the Month
Merlot Swanson “Cygnet” 2003, Oakville, Napa Valley; $12.99
Fans of big red wines will love this premium merlot at less than half the regular retail price. With a pinch of syrah as a booster, Swanson crafts one of Napa’s most intense merlots. A natural for red meats and strong sauces; try it with barbecue ribs or steak au poivre.