An Apple A Day- Big Apple Manhattan Cocktail

You know here we are having a weeklong tribute the apple, and it’s crossed my mind that nobody has even bothered to make a nice toast to the apple in celebration.

So, like your longwinded Uncle Arthur who can’t just stand up and say “Good Health”,  I’m the guy that makes you sit there with your glass aloft as he tells a story. A long story of questionable relevance!

That’s because before we get to the toast I think you need to know how I came to choose the apple for this extravaganza.

You see it all started when I was in Palm Springs a couple weekends ago. The people I was staying with have a (nearly) 5‑year kid. Let’s call him, Johnny. Well Johnny is developing an interest in cooking. He and I made a mean frittata one morning. It was like a game. He’d pick ingredients out of the fridge and I had to make something with them. Well a frittata is the original “kitchen sink” recipe, so it seemed an easy choice, especially once I clandestinely steered him toward choosing eggs.

And as is the case when that Uncle of yours opens his mouth, you are probably wondering what the heck this has to do with apples and the toast we are making to them! Well I am getting to that…

sippitysup in an apple treeNow kids need to be encouraged in their interests. Sure their interests may change with the wind and it’s probably easy to assume that most things go in one ear and out the other. But in truth you never know what thing may stick inside there and on what day that certain something comes along that shapes a child’s future. So I think you should treat all the things that interest a child, no matter how brief that interest, as important and real.

So to encourage this child (that we are calling Johnny for the purposes of this story) we decided it was time for a little lesson in food and where it comes from. The food adventure for this day would be apple picking on our way back from the desert. Because there is whole little town, I think it’s called Oak Grove, dedicated to all things apple, right on the way back to Los Angeles.

So we loaded up the car and we headed to Oak Grove. Now Oak Grove is a nice enough place, but the “cute factor” is a little ratcheted up for my tastes. I mean everyone likes gingham to a point, but you shouldn’t upholster the seats of your car in it, if you know what I mean.

sippitysup in an orchardAnyway we followed the gingham-checked signs up the mountain towards the apple orchards of Oak Grove. It’s amazing what a little elevation does for the weather. We quickly left the desert behind and found ourselves among the pine trees. It was probably 25 degrees cooler too. Which means it was a very lovely 70 degrees in that Apple Orchard.

And what an orchard it was. It stretched as far as the eye could see. It was what some might call picture-perfect. Well in my experience as a Hollywood photographer picture-perfect almost never is. And this orchard was no exception; because there were no apples. Not a single apple left on any of the trees as far as the eye could see. A freak hailstorm took care of that!

But of course none of that mattered to little “Johnny”, because he had completely forgotten we were there to get some apples for cooking. Nope he discovered the pumpkin patch and was gleefully moving on to his latest greatest interest, pumpkin carving– who needs apples anyway.

So you see that’s how I got apples stuck in my head. I came down that hill determined to get my fill of apples this week. Because unlike happy go lucky little boys, when this grown man gets something stuck in his craw well, it won’t be dislodged until fully digested.

So if you still have that glass raised in tribute let me end by saying:  “Cheers, and here’s to your good health”. Oh and if you are wondering what that amber-colored liquid is inside your glass, well it my latest toast to our seasonal hero the apple. I call it SippitySup’s Big Apple Manhattan.

This is not your Classic Manhattan, like the one that was created in honor of Winston Churchill’s mom.

But like the original it has a perfect balance between the ratio of whiskey to sweet. Though I am not using sweet vermouth. I am using a sweetly aromatic Calvados paired with a super smooth Bourbon whiskey. Calvados is double distilled from a mash of cider apples, and aged in oak barrels. It’s quite dry, very apple‑y with notes of vanilla and oak. It has a spiced quality that pairs nicely with the Bourbon.

makers mark barrelPlease remeber, this is a cocktail where the whiskey reigns supreme, so choose a premium brand. I like Maker’s Mark because it has deep, nutty sweetness; though traditionally Rye was the whiskey of choice. However today’s tastes tend to find Rye too harsh for this subtle combination of flavors. If you prefer to mellow out the strong flavor of whiskey, choose a blended Canadian whiskey.

I like my Manhattan stirred (not shaken) with ice and strained into in a cocktail glass, but many people prefer it American Gigolo style with ice in an old-fashioned glass. The Classic Manhattan recipe is garnished with one red Maraschino cherry, but my Big Apple Manhattan is, of course, finished off with one perfect sliver of crisp apple. Just like the moon over Manhattan on a picture-perfect urban eve.

Big Apple Manhattan Cocktail serves 1

  • 2 1/2 oz rye, bourbon, or blended canadian whiskey
  • 1 oz calvados
  • 2 ds bitters

Stir the liquid ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice. Strain the mixture into a cocktail glass and garnish with a wedge of crisp apple.


Greg Henry