Winter cocktail parties calls for a little vintage style. I'll be stopping by Serious Eats over the next few weeks with holiday-ready cocktail recipes from the out-of-print 1953 edition of Esquire's Handbook for Hosts. This book is a treasure trove of entertaining tidbits, from party games to recipes for dinner and drinks.
This entertaining handbook written for men in the Fifties is full of etiquette tips and gems of advice. "Every man should determine early in life," it warns, "how much liquor he can carry without losing his poise, equilibrium, reputation and civil liberties." The Esquire man is ever the gracious host...until he isn't: "Since the beauty of hospitality is its sincerity, the minute you start wishing people would go home it's time they did."
The recipes range from the vaguely alarming (Prairie Chicken: a whole egg, topped with gin and garnished with salt and pepper) to the classically delicious, including aperitifs, cocktails, and "Something for the Girls"; though the name is patronizing, the drinks are no less potent than the drinks "for the boys." Among the brandy cocktails I found a listing for this little gem, which calls for "substituting apple brandy of reputable make for whiskey in the Old-Fashioned."
The name Old-Fashioned is a shorthand reference to an Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail, a simple mixture of whiskey, sugar, bitters and a citrus peel. It is a sublimely simple and delicious preparation for a wide range of spirits besides just whiskey—rum, tequila, brandy—and a fine apple brandy is no exception. Showcasing the earthy, cold-weather flavor of apples with just a bit of sugar and bitters is a perfect preparation to enjoy classic holiday flavors in a new way.
About the author: Marleigh Riggins Miller is writer and photographer of SLOSHED!, a website about cocktails, spirits, home bartending, and entertaining.
- 1/4 oz simple syrup OR 1 sugar cube
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 1/2 oz apple brandy (such as Clear Creek)
- lemon twist
If using sugar, place the sugar cube in the bottom of the glass and add the 2 dashes of bitters. Muddle well to blend the sugar and bitters, then add a few drops of water and stir to dissolve the sugar.
If using simple syrup, add the syrup and bitters to the glass.
Place a large chunk of ice into the glass filled with sugar and bitters and add the apple brandy. Stir well to incorporate the sugar and brandy.
Twist the lemon peel over the top, drop it into the glass and serve.