I’m pretty sure it is fall. Not because the weather has cooled. It hasn’t. Not because we’ve put the flannel sheets on the bed. We haven’t. Not because I can sense a cold snap coming down Palomar Mountain, inspiring some fashion choices that mostly revolve around wool cardigan sweaters. No chilly breezes are on the horizon.
Rather, I’m sure the fall season is upon us because I can hear high school football games being played, the flowers on my morning walk have begun to change color, and I’ve recently begun to experience an intense, innate desire to start making up batches of cider and pumpkin spice cocktails.
It’s time to leave the summery cocktails behind. No more strawberry daiquiris or mojitos infused with fresh mint. Put the 5-gallon sangria bucket away. Things are about to get spicy.
I buy my cider already prepared, which saves me precious cocktail mixing time and prevents any unexpected apple-peeling injuries. Besides, I can’t reproduce the great flavors found at the fantastic cider producers in North County.
To the east, you’ll find Julian Hard Cider right in the heart of California’s apple country. Be sure to pick some. Work your way back toward the coast, and you’ll find Turquoise Barn Cider, Newtopia, Raging Cider and Mead, and Twisted Horn.
Once your cider is in hand, you have some options. You could pop the top, pour it into a glass and enjoy the sweet spice of fall wash down your throat, or you could craft a cider cocktail. I’m partial to hot cider cocktails. I’m going to recommend one of my favorites and a true classic: The Hot Apple Toddy.
First, do some recon in the pantry to make sure you have all the ingredients. Second, heat up a cup of apple cider. You could use a microwave, but it will taste better if you warm it slowly in a saucepan. You’ll also feel more accomplished and deserving of a delicious reward. Just be careful not to burn it. Stir it slowly to get an even heat.
I play a little fast and loose with the ratios in this drink, depending on my mood. Use a splash of the hot cider to preheat a coffee mug. Dump and then coat the bottom of the mug–preferably one that isn’t often used for coffee–with a local honey (about a teaspoon).
Add 2 ounces of whiskey or apple brandy. Top with 5 ounces of hot cider. Drop in a cinnamon stick. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkling of nutmeg and clove. Then garnish with a slice of apple. I prefer Gala or Golden Delicious.
Your cocktail is ready to drink. Find a comfy lounge chair. Cover yourself with a blanket. Watch a video of a crackling fire and try to forget that it was 90 degrees last weekend. Welcome to fall.
Pro-tip: Prevent your apple garnish from browning by squeezing some lemon juice onto it immediately after slicing. It will also add just the right amount of citrus to your cocktail.
Pro-Tip 2: Another great fall cocktail is even easier. Buy a pumpkin spice latte from your favorite local coffee shop. Add whiskey. Unbelievable.
Hot Apple Toddy
- 2-ounces whiskey or apple brandy (required)
• 5-ounces apple cider (required)
• 1 teaspoon local honey (required)
• Cinnamon stick (garnish)
• Whipped Cream (garnish)
• Apple (garnish)
• Lemon (garnish)
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article first ran in October 2021.