I can't prove that drinks made with apple brandy taste better at this time of year, but if you mix that spirit with the rich flavor of maple syrup, you may be able to work up some empirical evidence to back up that idea.
The Applejack Rabbit dates to at least the 1930s, and early recipes produced drinks that were teeth-grindingly sweet. This tweak on the recipe comes from one of the more influential books in the mixological canon, David Embury's The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, which is now back in print after a nearly 50-year absence from the shelves. Combining the fruity depths of applejack with fresh orange and lemon juice and sweetening the mix with the richness of maple, the Applejack Rabbit combines some of the best of the season's flavors.
(This drink calls for applejack, which is apple brandy blended with neutral spirits for a lighter flavor. It also works well with Laird's 100-proof Apple Brandy, as well as with other apple spirits such as Clear Creek Distillery's 4-year-old Apple Brandy. And be sure to use real maple syrup, preferably the richer-tasting Grade B; pseudo-maple such as Mrs. Butterworth's has no business being near your cocktail shaker.)
- 1 1/2 ounce applejack or apple brandy
- 1/4 ounce fresh orange juice
- 1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 ounce maple syrup
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake well for 10 seconds; strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.