If I’m asked to choose between the lighter spirits like gin and vodka and the darker ones like bourbon and rye, I will almost go with the lighter. It’s not that I can’t appreciate whiskey, because I certainly can and do, but it’s definitely more of an acquired taste for me, rather than something that I’m naturally drawn to. I have more of an affinity towards rye than bourbon, because I like the spicy, less sweet flavor profile that rye is known for. All that being said, the idea of white whiskey really throws a monkey wrench into things for me. Here is this perfectly clear bottle that looks like something I should like, yet its aroma and taste belong to a category of spirits that I know I struggle with. To make matters even more difficult for me, white whiskey is the spirit before it goes into a barrel to be aged, so it has not been softened at all by time spent in contact with the charred wood. New Liberty Distillery in Kensington is yet another one of the local distilleries being featured during Philly Craft Spirits Week, and I had the opportunity to taste their products at Whiskey Fest and again this past Sunday at the cocktail challenge held at Heritage Restaurant in Northern Liberties. Their white whiskey is potent and powerful, and I was surprised by how clean and smooth it was. I could definitely see how it would appeal to a vodka and gin drinker like me, but I also knew that it was going to be very challenging for this home bartender to use it in a Fall cocktail. I was determined to make it work!
I was certain that I wanted to use apple cider in the drink along with the whiskey so I let that be my starting point. From there I added Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur because ginger works so well with apples and it’s such a great fall flavor. I knew I needed some sweetness, so I reached for Marie Brizard Apricot Liqueur and the Chai simple syrup that I’d made last week, using both in small amounts. I love ginger and apricot together, and the Chai spices seemed to make the combination even better. I added lemon juice because I still wanted it to be a sour and that left me with the decision as to which bitters I should use. I decided on DRAM Apothecary’s Black bitters which I’d purchased at the Art in the Age store in Old City. Described as “shadowy and robust and a blend of all herbs black,” they were just too intriguing to pass up and they worked in the cocktail in just the way I wanted them to! This is a drink that continues to open up and taste better as the ice melts in the glass. Serving it over one large cube and taking your time with it is the perfect way to drink it.
Moonshine and Apples
1 1/2 New Liberty Distillery White Whiskey
1/2 oz Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
1/4 Marie Brizard Apricot Liqueur
1 1/2 apple cider
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 Chai tea simple syrup*
2 dashes DRAM Black Bitters
Apple slices for garnishing
Place all the ingredients in the bottom half of a shaker tin and then add your 1 large cube and 2 small. Shake for 15—20 seconds or until cold. If you don’t have any large format cubes on hand, then fill the shaker 2/3 full with regular ice. Strain using a Hawthorne strainer into an old-fashioned glass with one large ice cube. Garnish with a fan of apple slices slices. Enjoy!
*To make the Chai tea simple syrup, boil 1/2 cup of water and add 3 Chai tea bags. Let them steep for 5 minutes. Add 1/3 of a cup of sugar and reheat gently until the sugar has completely dissolved. Store in a Mason jar in the fridge.