I first learned about the Quasi-War, the undeclared war between France and the U.S. from 1798 to 1800, in sixth grade history class, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. Maybe it's the bizarre name (or that the alternate name is the Pirate War), but a seafaring conflict full of pirates and corsairs battling over, of all things, debt ownership, is too fascinating to forget.
These were the lessons that made going back to school every fall so tolerable. So to commemorate the beginning of autumn, 215 years of the Quasi-War's conclusion, and sixth grade history classes everywhere, I've mixed together a mash-up of the colonial United States, revolutionary France, and some fall apples for good measure.
We begin with the classic American spirit: Laird's Apple Brandy. The Laird family was actually making applejack at the time of the Quasi-War; the brandy they make today is 100 proof strong and bottled-in-bond. Matched against it is Mandarine Napoléon liqueur, supposedly first created for Napoleon himself (though he was still plain Napoléon Bonaparte at the time of the Quasi-War—he didn't ascend to emperorship until four years after it ended). The Mandarine Napoléon is a luscious, sweet liqueur infused with real mandarin oranges, best diluted in a longer drink to add some body without overwhelming the palate.
We muddle in some freshly picked apples to give it a touch of sweetness (go as tart or sweet as you like), and add some Spanish oloroso sherry (yes, the Spanish were peripherally involved in the Quasi-War!) for some sweet nuttiness to keep the drink in check, and some sparkling wine to tie all the elements together. The apple and orange aromas remain distinct in your glass, but the whole cocktail comes together as a balanced appreciation of all of fall's flavors. In this version of historical events, everyone wins.