Northern Spy Recipe

Let's get this weekend started right. Here's a cocktail recipe from Paul Clarke (The Cocktail Chronicles) to kick things off. Need more than one? That kinda week, eh? Here you go. Cheers!

You've invited the guests, selected the bird, and you're about to raid the farmer's markets and a battery of different stores in preparation for the big event. And what's the first thing you're going to hand your guests when they arrive?

If your first thought is to go with what's safe and familiar, and offer the same selection of drinks to your guests that you do every time you see them, you're certainly not alone. At a time when the American palate is expanding and the Thanksgiving table is increasingly a mix of the traditional and the innovative, our approach to drinks is still fairly conservative. Sure, you may brighten things up by splashing cranberry or pomegranate juice into a glass of Champagne, but there's an argument to be made for kicking off the festivities with a glass of something none of your guests have ever had before, a drink crafted especially with the flavors of the holiday in mind.

part of a Serious Thanksgiving

Consider the Northern Spy. Created by Josey Packard--a bartender at Alembic, one of the leading establishments in San Francisco's creative bar scene--the Northern Spy is an exceptional cocktail that I hesitate to refer to as a Thanksgiving drink, if for no other reason than I think it's a fine tipple for any time of the season. Constructed with the bright flavor of applejack (New Jersey's native spirit) matched with fresh apple cider and the fruity sweetness of apricot brandy, the Northern Spy will get the holiday conversation rolling faster than any old reliable glass of scotch or chardonnay.

This is what Packard says she serves to her family on Thanksgiving, and this year, it'll be what I serve to mine. If you decide to mix a round of Northern Spies for your gathering, be sure to let us know how it works out.

Northern Spy

Created by Josey Packard, bartender at Alembic in San Francisco.

Recipe Facts

Prep: 5 mins
Total: 5 mins

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  • 2 ounces applejack
  • 1 ounce fresh apple cider
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4-1/2 ounce apricot brandy, to taste


  1. Rub a lemon wedge around the rim of a cocktail glass, then dip the rim in a saucer of cinnamon sugar; shake off excess and chill. Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and shake well for 10 seconds and strain into prepared glasses; garnish with a cranberry or a dried apricot, if you like.

  2. Optional: To make the drink a little more plush, top each glass with an ounce of chilled brut champagne (you may wish to add a bit more apricot brandy to compensate for the Champagne’s acidity).