We asked Michael Neff of Ward III in Tribeca to design a cocktail that we could make in a big batch for a party.
The only ingredient we stipulated was applejack; we love the oaky vanilla notes and baked-apple flavor of Cornelius Applejack and the caramelized, spicy apple and brown sugar flavor of Laird's Applejack (both were review samples.) But we didn't want typical fall flavors: no ginger or nutmeg, no cinnamon. Been there, done that.
Neff has a way with requests: he makes drinks better than anything we might be imagining when we order them. He threw in the applejack, but then added gin, which contributes a perfect piney freshness. Lime and orange juices brighten it up, adding sunny flavor to the potent punch. Though you could just use juice, muddling the orange to get the oils from the peel adds a delicately bitter complexity that straight juice just doesn't match.
Make this drink a few hours ahead of the party and store it in a bottle in your fridge, Michael Dietsch-style.
- 2 oranges
- 8 dashes Angostura bitters
- 6 ounces gin
- 6 ounces Applejack
- 2 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice from about 5 limes
- 2 ounces simple syrup
- 5 ounces water
- Large block of ice for serving
- Thin lime slices for garnish
8 hours in advance, make a large ice block (or extra-large ice cubes) for serving.
Meanwhile, a few hours before serving, cut oranges into slices and muddle a few at a time in shaker. Strain and discard pulp and orange peel. When you have 2 ounces of juice, add Angostura bitters. Pour into resealable 750-milliliter bottle (using funnel if desired.)
Add gin, applejack, lime juice, simple syrup, and water. Seal bottle and shake to blend. Refrigerate until completely chilled. Serve in a punch bowl over ice, garnishing with lime slices.