The weather has cooled. The flannel sheets have been put on the bed. The leaves on some of the trees have gone from green to red seemingly overnight. Cleveland National Forest was even blanketed with a layer of wet, clumping snow. SoCal? More like SnoCal.
It’s time to leave the summery cocktails behind. Put the margarita mix in the back of the fridge. Cross fresh mint off your shopping list. Hide the Collins glass (I’m dating myself with this one — Google it) and go pick up a jug of apple cider. Things are about to get steamy at the home bar.
You could buy your cider already hard saving yourself precious cocktail mixing time. An hour or so to the east of North County you’ll find Julian Hard Cider right in the heart of apple country. Work your way back toward the coast, and you’ll see Turquoise Barn Cider, Newtopia, Raging Cider and Mead and Twisted Horn. Once your cider is in hand, pop the cap, pour into a glass and enjoy the sweet spice of fall wash down your throat.
We’re in a serious coronavirus surge. Please check on updated policies for safe pickups & purchases. Be kind to your local cider maker and wear a mask!
Want something a little more crafted in the moment? It’s time for a cider cocktail. You’ll have to make some choices to get started. First, hot or cold? If cold, I’m going to recommend one of my favorites — the Irish Apple Cider Mule. Similar to a classic Moscow mule but completely different. I make mine in a Mason jar pint. Not to be cool or hip, but because I’m terrible about breaking glassware. It’s easier just to buy jars by the case. I know copper is the traditional cup of the Mule, but that is a tradition meant to be broken.
Fill your chosen cider-holding device with 2 oz. of bourbon or whiskey, add 3 oz. of that delicious, local apple cider, squeeze in the juice from a healthy-looking lime wedge and top with a splash of ginger beer to taste. In our house, we use Brandenburg or Goslings ginger beer. Garnish with an apple slice.
If you’re feeling that winter chill creeping down from Palomar Mountain into the valley and need something to warm you from the inside, I’m going to direct you toward a liquor that is often overlooked on the West Coast — brandy.
Fun fact: Brandy is actually made from distilled wine. Fun fact No. 2: Cognac is actually a type of brandy. It’s quite popular in the Midwest, and there is a chance a nip of it was slipped into a cider or two when I was a kid so my parents could get me to sleep. (I DO NOT advocate doing that. It was a different time.)
Back to our cocktail. Heat up a cup of apple cider. You could use a microwave, but I prefer to slowly warm it using a saucepan. It makes me feel more like a chef. Just be careful not to burn it. Stir it slowly to get an even heat.
In a coffee mug — preferably one not often used for coffee — add 2 oz. of brandy, 1/2 oz. of an orange liqueur like Cointreau or Gran Marnier and fill with your warm apple cider. You could garnish with a cinnamon stick or an orange twist, but I prefer to add a dollop of whipped cream with a sprinkle of cinnamon over the top.
Find a comfy lounge chair. Cover yourself with a blanket. Watch a video of a crackling fire and enjoy.
Be sure to check out the recent episode of the Cheers! North County podcast featuring my conversation with Tommy Kreamer, head brewer at Gravity Heights. New interviews drop every other Friday. The next episode comes out Nov. 20 with guests Brandon Hernandez from SanDiegoBeer.News online and Cody Thompson from Beer Night in San Diego.