Every November, during the calm before the storm of the holidays, I start scheming the cocktail recipes that will carry me through the season from party to party and cheers to cheers. I make a list of all of the beautiful treasures of the fall harvest for inspiration – the sweet-savory juice of fresh beets and carrots that shine in a sour; the pineapple sage that I’ve packed into raw honey to make syrup; and the seemingly bottomless basket of apples that I will savor into the new year with countless pies, spiced old-fashioneds and compotes.
I’m a huge fan of sparkling cocktails for the holidays. They’re light and effervescent and evoke a certain twinkle in the eye and glow of the cheeks. In addition to bubbles, spritzes can include a base spirit, a cordial, fresh juice, or any combination of the three.
My favorite sparkling cocktail right now is the Orchard Spritz. The base is Thomas Tew dark rum (made by Newport Distilling Co.), with its amber notes of vanilla, caramel, oak, and just enough pepper to drive a bit of heat into the bones. St.George spiced pear liqueur adds some sweetness along with hints of cinnamon and clove. I also include fresh lemon juice, which animates the cordial with a lively zest.
Normally, I might top this spritz with a dry cava or prosecco, but on a recent trip to Newport Vineyards, one sip of their Rhody Coyote hard cider got me thinking. Why not top it off with sparkling cider instead? The hard cider’s light floral, apple notes just aren’t possible to achieve using apple cordials, which, for whatever reason, always end up tasting like Apple Pucker – not good. Both pear and apple are incredibly delicate and tricky flavors to achieve in cocktails, and matching the pear liqueur with hard cider seems a feat of autumnal sorcery.
Newport Vineyards sources their apples from a handful of local orchards on the island, including Rocky Brook Orchard, Sweet Berry Farm, and Farmlands. They first grind down the apples – skins on – into a pulp in a specialized press. The juice is then moved into stainless tanks for fermentation. In a few months time, they have a hard cider ready for bottling.
The Orchard Spritz tastes divine during magic hour after you’ve come in from the cold and works great served with (or even as) dessert. The crystallized ginger that crests the cocktail is perfect for intermittent nibbling or dropping into the glass for an added layer of warming spices. There may be frost in our future, but the Orchard Spritz has the powers to conjure a fully flourishing apple orchard during harvest, a welcome memory as we begin our journey into long nights.
The Orchard Spritz cocktail
makes 1 cocktail
1½ ounces Thomas Tew Rum
½ ounce St. George spiced pear liqueur
¼ ounce fresh lemon juice
Rhody Coyote hard cider
crystallized ginger (for garnish)
In a bar tin filled with ice, add liquid ingredients, shake for 10 seconds, and strain into a cocktail coupe. Top with sparkling cider and garnish with crystallized ginger.