Friday, February 21, 2014


Spy vs Spy.

The Northern Spy is a well known cocktail made with applejack.  We decided to take it on a ride that you won't forget, making 2 versions which are slightly complementary but which also are a bit contrary to each-other as well.

Let's start off with our version of the "Northern Spy" : 

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Rather than use brandy made from certain fruits (which costs like... $55 a bottle, seriously we're not laying down that kinda scratch just to make one drink for you people) we decided to make our own infusions. Infusions, by the way, are often more flavorful than distilled spirits because they are made from a neutral spirit that uses its power to suck the flavors out of (whatever you use) into an tincture of nummie liquid kick-ass.

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Black Dirt Applejack may be one tough cookie, but that doesn't mean it lacks distinctiveness or depth.   Bottled in bond and aged bourbon style for 6 years, the warm notes of American Whiskey ride on top of explosive hints of apple to create a taste as smooth and good looking as a Cadillac El Dorado.

The "Northern Spy" traditionally has lemon juice in it, but we opted to leave it out, because it just seemed unnecessary.  The taste of the Doc's Draft Cider is fine enough without it and so that was that.

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Yes we've done this before.   Remember that dried fruits will suck up a bunch of liquid and so you should shake them occasionally to make sure that all the awesome flavor doesn't get locked up in the fleshy fruit bits.

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Since they are related, we thought it would be awesome to use Doc's Draft Cider with Black Dirt Applejack rather than some sparkling wine.  It really came out nice and the light carbonation and sweet tones complimented the apricot very well.


The Turkish Spy Cocktail.

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This is the first infusion we have ever made with figs.  Figs seem to want to be friends with booze.  They are sweet, and it takes almost no time for their flavor to start coming out in an infusion like this. 

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If you don't want to get your fingers wet, you can use chopsticks to munch on these little beauties.  By the way, we picked these figs up at Sahadi's Importing, where they are available year-round.

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There is no reason you actually can't have this as a hot toddy style drink, but we kept it cold here in order to maintain an association with the "Northern Spy" cocktail.  If we warmed it up, it would be so far from that, it would need an entirely new name and we're bad at naming things at the moment for some reason.

Pictured above is just some regular black tea (Indian Darjeeling), brewed the normal way with a bit of sugar added and then cooled down.  You can probably buy some pre-made stuff from the store and it would be just as good.  We were actually going to add lemon to this one, but we just straight up forgot to.  It came out pretty nice anyway. 

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So here's what we did:

"New England Spy" :
2 shots Applejack
1 shot apricot infusion 
Top off with Doc's Draft Cider.
Garnish with dried apricot

"Turkish Spy"
2 shots Applejack
1 shot fig infusion
Top off with black tea (sweetened with optional lemon).
Garnish with a fig.  ...Or not, we don't care.

See you soon.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


The Bad Apple

 Black Dirt Applejack is something strong enough to go up against the the hardest of recipes.  So we are about to create something new. (as far as we know).

Based on the "Bad Rooster" cocktail, which is made from Cachasa and Sriracha, the"Bad Apple" is a bit more mean, and pulling at the leash.   And this is how you make it happen:

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Now, just because we don't have a lot of photos doesn't mean we don't think this drink is one of the best that we've ever had.  It was just so simple, that we didn't even think about it until now. You just need everything in the above photo... and just so you know, we put a tiny pinch of salt (like 1/8th of a teaspoon) into the sour mix that we're about to make.

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This starts with just a technical sour-mix made from sugar, water, lime juice, and also sriracha.... and a shot of some serious Vodka.  You can see us using it in a previous episode.  We dissolved the Sriracha as far as it could go while making the simple syrup (that means we mixed it with the boiling water), and now we have this.   6 ounces of properly made Sriracha sour mix (2sugar+2water+lemon/limes and 2 sriracha,  each).  Now of course, it goes without saying that if you make this at home, make sure it's mixed and then cold so that when you add it to your drink it doesn't melt any ice or warm it up too much.  Also make sure you tailor it to your own tastes so that you like what you're getting, you like spicy, then add it, and if you don't then leave it out, but then you will be getting basically just an applejack-sour, which you can see totally made from scratch here.

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Combine it at a ratio of 2 parts Black Dirt Applejack to 1 part sriracha mix.  Or if you're into heat then you can add a bit more (we did), and you will have an amazing tasting cocktail.  It will have that sweet smoke, but the the burn will show up as well.

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We didn't take enough photos, but that's because we really were blown away by how awesome this final cocktail tasted.  (no bitters, no other things, it just was amazing on its own).

The Black Dirt Applejack Sriracha Sour has blown us away.  Seriously, you could think for a minute that some whiskey could hold up to this, but we don't think it could.  It needs Applejack, and the only Applejack that had a chance, was Black Dirt Applejack.  

It's hard to imagine some bull-crap hipster version of a cocktail coming from us... But the flavor and taste came through even in the face of harsh obstacles.   Seriously, the batches that Black Dirt make are more than comparable to bonded aged whiskeys but with a unique sweet nose.

We wish we had another bottle of this stuff to put it up against a whole lot of other things, including our home-made BBQ and our home-made ice cream,  ...But I think we'll have to go upstate and track them down.

Next up, it's Black Dirt Applejack in "Spy vs Spy" as cocktails.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


The Dirty Latte

We've established that with its 6 year bonded age, Black Dirt Applejack is not to be messed with.  So the first of the rough and tumble tastes we're going to put it up against is coffee.  We've created the Dirty Latte, which can be served hot or iced. 

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You may remember we used the cold-brew technique in our Tri-Colored Coffee episode, where we made Mexican coffee by actually brewing coffee with tequila.  The same is about to happen here.

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What you see here is Italian roasted Kenya AA coffee from D'Amico Coffee Roasters.  However, unlike last time, it is ground for a paper drip filter and so it will never ever form that bottom sludge which helps minimize grit.  We just didn't have any espresso grind at the time.

We are making a single serving here, so there are small amounts of everything except sugar (well, for us, but for some people 2 tablespoons of sugar in a latte isn't actually that much, but we never really had a sweet tooth).  Again, we should mention that the cold-brew process with booze tends to bring out a bit of bitterness from any coffee you use, so not adding any sugar will yield something that makes your eyes cross.

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In an effort to minimize bitter flavors (and because we really wanted to try this), we did not let this sit overnight, but for only 15-20 minutes at room temp.  It was more than enough time.

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This is light cream and we are not making whipped cream.  We are just integrating some ground cinnamon and sugar into it and fluffing it up a tiny bit.  We want a latte, so we want to make sure that it can mix with the Black Dirt Applejack cold-brew coffee and not just sit on top of it.   Our Cappuccino steamer has been FUBAR for over a year, but if you have one, then using it here might be a good idea.

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Because the grind of the coffee was much more coarse, and we didn't have a French Press around, we poured it trough coffee filters to get as much as we could out.  When giving it a bit of a squeeze, we split it and a little bit of grit escaped.  But rather than re-filter it, we noticed it seemed apropos.  Se we left it, and what we got was quite interesting:

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Now, it might come off a tiny bit better if those were little chocolate bits in there, but since one of our fave snacks is chocolate covered espresso beans, we are very into the gnashing on coffee goodness that this provided.

Black Dirt came through this on top.  We warmed the cold brew applejack coffee (still covered in the jar) in a hot water bath rather than a microwave, but it was more than sufficient to heat things up to the point that was needed.  Black Dirt's nose came through this as strong as ever and the charred-oak quality of the body took no time to become BFFs with the dark roast of coffee.  The cinnamon infused cream not only brought everyone's favorite apple side-kick to the party, but also ensures that these 2 major heartburn causers (booze and coffee) go down smooth and not kicking and screaming.  Being a hot/warm drink, the Applejack shines better than a whiskey here because the fragrant qualities of the apples can get to your nose faster.

About half way through, we also realized that this might make a great iced drink and so we tried that.  On its own, when iced, it became a bit thick, so we watered it down with a bit of skim milk just to make it more drinkable.  Still sweet and awesome.  Usually when you ice a hot drink, you tone down some of the aromas and tastes, but in this case that didn't happen much.  

Tune in tomorrow when we lock Black Dirt Applejack in a closet with Sriracha and see who comes out alive... or pregnant.  We're not sure exactly what's gonna happen in there.

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Monday, February 17, 2014


A First Look 

Black Dirt Applejack is made in Warwick New York, and the Black Dirt Distillery is actually a spin-off of the Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery (according to their website) and that Warwick Valley Winery is, yes, the Doc’s Draft Cider People.  We hope they’re not on their way down here to kill us for not liking their Raspberry Cider (we love their Apple and Pear though), and we do buy a few 22oz bottles every week so hopefully they won’t want to lose the business.  Seriously, we’re well on our way to 200 bottles, the empties we save and give to our home-brewer friends (rather than just toss in the recycle bin). 

But, cider time is over and we’re here to look at Black Dirt Applejack.

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Black Dirt Applejack is Bottled in Bond.  That means that there is a specific benchmark and inspection that goes along with the production and aging of this applejack.  Also, this is Batch #2, which means that this has been barrel-aged for six years at 100 proof.  That is much longer and stronger (lol porn joke) than anything else that we have seen.   Finally, it is also made from only one type of apple; Jonagold Apples grown in New York.

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Don't get us wrong, we'd probably drink this neat for the entire review if we could.  The American Oak char aging, New York Apples, and that Rubik's Cube of distillation which Black Dirt has perfected ...which keeps the apple notes intact while still coming out at 100 proof is done so right.  This is the kind of thing that you simply can't find mundane no matter how much time goes by.  But, this Applejack served neat isn't for the uninitiated.  If you haven't had spirits neat before, then you might want to start with something a bit more tame, because this is more or less expert level.

Seriously, there we were almost done with these Applejack labels, and we pulled the top off thinking “yeah, yeah, here’s another one...”  Then shazam, it pounded us in the face with a shoe shine box while screaming at us to respect it like mutherfuckin Black CaesarIt has paid its dues and will take shit from exactly no clowns out there. 

Black Dirt Applejack is made by Apple People, who (by the taste of things) know exactly what they're doing.  Black Dirt also makes a Bourbon style Whiskey that is aged for 3 years in charred barrels.  So look for that as well.  
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We've decided that there will be no punches pulled with this one.  We’re gonna enlist some serious challenges that only the most tested of aged spirits could possibly go up against, and see how the Applejack stacks up.  Spoiler alert:  Black Dirt kicks ass.

Stay tuned you little salamanders.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

APPLEJACK-OFF 2014: Aspall Cider

Supplemental Cider:
(Our Final Cider Entry)

The Supplemental Cider content of our APPLEJACK-OFF 2014  series concludes with a look at another cider from England (it's that country where that thing happened that time).  While recently poking around a local purveyor of fine beverages, we came across Aspall Cider.  Made in Suffolk England, Aspall has apparently been produced in one form or another since 1728.  It was priced at just about $7.00 for this half-liter here in New York.  This is annoying, because apparently in England on Aspall's own website, their stuff goes for GBP £1.69 which would come out to USD $2.85.  So  ...fuck.  But we bought it anyway, and we’re glad we did. 

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Readers from the UK might know this brand rather well, and some will notice that this label is (most likely) the export version using the “CIDER” rather than “CYDER” spelling, which seems to be used in Aspall’s domestic market.  Other than that, and the fact that this is 6.8% ABV but in England it's 7% ABV (we don't know why...) we’re assuming that we’re getting more or less the same thing that would roll off the lines in England. 

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Since this is just supplemental content for our APPLEJACK-OFF 2014, we won’t be going into any insane detail, but our final thoughts on this are good

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Yep, Aspall is dry with a clean finish and has those fine tiny bubbles.  This cider is perfect for anyone who is put off by the candy-sweet tastes of things like Woodchuck or even the less-sweet but still not very dry Original Sin, which we must admit we aren't crazy about (the dryer the better as far as we care).  So like a dry Prosecco, we really like Aspall English Dry Draft Cider and think it might even be something that would unseat the Miller-Coors owned Crispin English cider from our favorites list.  Apparently Aspall has done pretty well with the proper cider authorities as well.

We'll see you soon when we take an in-depth look into our final Applejack in the Pinky Mixology Applejack-Off 2014. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

APPLEJACK-OFF 2014: The Good, the Bad, and the Fruity of cider.

Supplemental Cider
The Good The Bad and The Ugly.

Hard Apple Cider has been around for a few thousand years, but only recently has it returned to a once prominent place of glory in the USA since it was forced into hiding by that oh so mistake of mistakes, prohibition

Today, even in most mega-marts in flyover country you can find a well made cider that quenches the thirst of ...thirsty-ness.  The problem is, that too many chuckle-heads are jumping on the band wagon and making some weird crap.  Worse yet, is now the mass-producers are not only buying up the good local cider brands, but they are straight up trying to steal market share with deceptively labeled products which are just crappy beers with apple flavoring and coloring added. 

We’re here to show you some examples of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the cider-scape of today.  Do keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive, because we don't really feel like going down to the bottle distributor and blowing like, $200 to get one of everything out there from Hornsby's to New Mexico Hard Cider.  So here's just a few to check out.


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You may notice that Doc's Draft isn't here, but that's because we love it so much that Doc's actually has its own post which you can see here.   That doesn't mean that Doc's is going to escape our wrath for what it did to its own cider though.


These things are just bad.  This is because they aren't cider at all, but deceptively marketed piss-beers that have been flavored by mega-breweries.   Here in New York, we have the stupid 5 cent deposit shit on all bottles, except hard cider.  We don't know why, but a true cider in NY will never ever have a 5 cent deposit.  So if what you're buying has that, you're being taken for a ride. 

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There really are few words to describe how terrible we think Redd's Apple Ale is.  Resorting to added flavors and caramel coloring to trick consumers into thinking that this is a well crafted cider  In reality this is more like just some rejected Miller High Life which has been given the Apple Zima treatment.  We can simply call it nothing short of disgusting to our tastes. 

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While Shock Top is from a mass-producer, it sometimes hits the spot when it's $4 at happy hour and you can down 4 for $20 while the game is on and still be able to leave a decent tip.  That being said, only the regular kind should exist, and adding apple to it is like shoving a square peg into a round hole; Yes something got through, but nobody really wins.   


This is really just tragic.   These are otherwise good labels producing crap by mixing their cider with flavors that just mess them up and take away from makes them great.   The biggest tragedy is Doc's Draft, which seems to be under the impression that their actual hard cider can be improved by messing with it.   Spoiler alert; it can't. 

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We LOVE Doc's Draft.  It is one of our favorites and we constantly lobby our local stores to carry it.  But, the reason why we love it is also the reason we can't stand when they go an try to fix what isn't broken by creating berry versions, pumpkin versions, or a dry-hopped cider (who dry-hops a cider? why would you want to do that?).  The apple and the pear are glorious, but their other concoctions fall short.  We just don't like them.

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Wen it comes down to it, cider is cider and shoving berries or pumpkin up its ass is just gonna be a mess.  You can do that kind of stuff with beer, because beer is more or less plain toasted bread.  So you could put canned pumpkin or raspberry jam on toast, but would you really put it on apple slices?  Yeah, think about that.

It should go without saying that some people might like these berry ciders, because they aren't poorly made.  We just happen to not really be into that kind of flavoring, but that's just us.  You like what you like, so don't go limiting yourself on our account (except for Redd's ...never ever have that). 

The Pinky Mixology Applejack-off of 2014 continues with our in-depth look at Black Dirt Applejack.

APPLEJACK-OFF 2014: The L Word


We are gonna have to mention them.  Laird’sLaird’s Applejack is probably the most widely distributed type of Applejack there is out there.  From coast to coast, it’s not that hard to find the stuff, and because they use more mass produced apple-juice than Juicy Juice, it’s uniform, and cheap. 

Laird’s declined to participate in our Applejack event, stating no reason why.  However, after tasting the labels that did choose to participate, we can probably tell you why.   In our opinion, Laird’s didn’t stand a chance.  Bonded or not, they have gone for quantity over quality, and while that might do well for them (since so many people out there have never actually had the chance to taste a craft-made applejack, so what would they know if they had some faceless stuff from Laird's), they still may know deep down that they are the mass-market bland type. 

We’ve had them on Pinky Mixology before (three different times 1, 2, and 3), but they just weren’t interested in putting their product up against the others out there.

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So all we can really say is that we find Laird’s similar to mass-produced spirits of all kinds, and while that’s kind of ok for some clear spirits in a bunch of cases, for an aged spirit, one expects some personality, and Laird’s has about as much as a mannequin at Sears. 

Maybe one day they’ll prove us wrong, but we aren’t holding our breath.

Friday, February 14, 2014

APPLEJACK-OFF 2014: Growlers full of apples.


We have a little bit of supplemental content before moving on to our final Applejack Label.  

In our quest for distilled apple spirits, we have come across some interesting and unique items that fit in a category naught but their very own. Such an item is most certainly the Old Country Goodness, simply called O.C.G., from Journeyman Distillery, located in Three Oaks, Michigan.

We were fortunate enough to be able to talk about this item with Journeyman, and we have found out some interesting things: This is a blend of local cider and a white distillation, steeped and mildly aged with a secret blend of spices. Journeyman guards this secret process quite diligently, so we can just tell you the obvious; O.C.G. clocks in at 10% ABV, similar to our own home-made hard cider, but undoubtedly with different tastes. It is available only at Journeyman Distillery and nowhere else.  They serve it cocktail style (in a pint glass, not some wussy thin little booze-tube) along with Angostura Bitters and cinnamon.  It is also offered in a warmed version for fighting off this winter of the epic polar vortex. If you end up liking it (and let’s face it, who wouldn’t think this is awesome), you can haul home a Growler from the Journeyman tasting room.

Being a considerable distance from Michigan, we haven’t had a chance to actually partake of and enjoy this closely guarded elixir of apply goodness, but it awaits any an age-appropriate traveler at Journeyman Distillery


Thursday, February 13, 2014


Pinky Mixology Presents:
Final Thoughts

So what can we say about Santa Fe Spirits Apple Brandy that doesn't involve the word "balanced" any more since we've already humped it to death...  The thing is, that balance was unexpected.  Aged apple spirits seem to aim for a niche of preserving some specific heritage.  Targets can be close to a whiskey or so far near a clear spirit that it can be impossible to place them in the same family of "applejack."  But Santa Fe Spirits has an apple history of bring apples where apples had feared to tread.  That means they know where to get apples in a bad year, and what kind of apples they'll be using from their home turf in a good one.  So let's get looking into this:

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When you want an Apple Brandy / Applejack that you can count on, to make your plans and share with friends with no surprises, Santa Fe Spirits fits the bill.  The individual notes and uniqueness are present there's no doubt, but all the while the flight-plan and destination are locked in, and you can just sit back and relax in the knowledge that everything is going to be fine.  Notes of apple skin and cinnamon, with a tiny bit of New Mexico wild-fire, make for pleasant viewing out the window, with the apple notes from air-conditioning are set to "perfect" all the while. 

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Like we said in the beginning, we really didn't expect to see an aged apple spirit come out of anywhere but the North-East USA, Eastern Canada, or maybe Washington State.  California would have been stretching it, and New Mexico would probably have ended up near Alaska on our list of least likely sources for it.  Oh how wrong we were and we've never been happier to be so.  The final product from Santa Fe Spirits is unique enough from the others to give it a personality, and it's one that always has the right thing to say at the right time, without blabbering on. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Pinky Mixology Presents: 
The Velvet Apple

Based on a cocktail called The Velvet Jack, The Velvet Apple uses Santa Fe Spirits Apple Brandy in place of Jack Daniel's.  Not just a cold weather spirit, apple brandy and applejack can make some great warm weather drinks as well, and if you are the type to like things on the sweet side, dessert cocktails,  or if you just enjoy raspberry,  then this one might be right for you.

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This is traditionally served in an old-fashioned and on the rocks.  We didn't see the need to change that.

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Chambord is ubiquitous in North America and most of Europe.  It's not hard to find but it is on the expensive side.

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Our 2012 Valentine's Day Special does indeed have a fresh alternative to Chambord in it, and we do like it better.  However, not everyone is going to have the time or patience to make raspberry vodka mash every time it's time for a drink, so Chambord does serve a purpose.

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Like our apple-pomegranate Grenadine, we have home-made this sour mix from scratch with cooked simple syrup and citrus juices, and like our apple-pomegranate Grenadine, we will be showing you how to make it in an upcoming episode (probably the same one).

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The larger your ice cubes, the longer it will take them to melt, and the less watered-down your drink will be while still staying cold at the same time.  Some places ever offer both stone and stainless steel pieces that can be frozen in order to keep a drink cold while not diluting it at all, but we aren't totally sold on the notion of a hunk of rock or metal rolling around in our glassware and possibly sliding square into your teeth as you finish your drink.  One of the time honored best ways to ensure you don't dilute your drink with ice is actually to make sure your glass is as cold as it can be before you use it.

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Garnishes can include zests and even something like a mint or rosemary sprig if you feel adventurous.  We decided to garnish this with... air.