This holiday cocktail by ubiquitous mixologist Josh Seaburg is themed for a Hanukkah toast — but it also was on the menu at Norfolk’s Crudo Nudo as Laird’s Witch Project for Halloween. It is an all-purpose holiday drink, spiced for the season with the aromatic flavors of a simple chai tea syrup.
The “L” in the name stands for Laird’s, the family-run distillery near Charlottesville with New Jersey roots and ownership that go back to 1730: Its original distiller’s license was the first
issued in the United States. Their apples are Virginian, and the resulting brandy is one of the most iconic in the country.
The Straight Applejack 86 is a product both new and old. The recipe dates back to pre-Prohibition times, and the name is the proof of the brandy — which, unlike many applejacks, is not mixed with neutral grain spirit. The only thing getting you warm in the cheeks is distilled local apple juice.
Mixed with the aromatics and sugars of sweet vermouth (that’s the red stuff, and Martini & Rossi will do), then perked up with lemon juice, this is a lively and festive cocktail — less for dinner than celebration. L’chaim!
1.5 ounces Laird’s Straight Applejack 86
¾ ounce chai syrup*
¾ ounce vermouth
½ ounce (1 tbsp) fresh-squeezed lemon juice
*Chai syrup: Drop two chai tea bags into every 8 ounces of near-boiling water. Steep for six minutes, and remove the bags. While still hot, add 8 ounces sugar for each 8 ounces water.
Instructions: Mix all ingredients, then pour in a shaker and shake vigorously over ice for about 15 seconds. Serve neat. No garnish, says Seaburg, because “garnishes are stupid.”
Matt Labarge mixes up his cocktaill, Holiday Equinox, at Four Eleven York, Norfolk.