In the cocktail world, citrus juices are king. Lemon and lime basically comprise the backbone of the majority of sour-based classic cocktails, making them indispensable to mixing drinks. But that doesn’t mean we should neglect other juices. Any well-stocked bar wouldn’t be caught off guard without some form of tomato juice to whip up a Bloody Mary. A proper Tiki bar couldn’t open its doors without a healthy supply of pineapple juice. And in the fall there’s nothing quite like a cocktail built around fresh-pressed apple juice.
Apple juice has been a part of American drinking culture since before we were a nation. Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys consumed rum and cider in great quantities on the eve of the raid on Fort Ticonderoga. When not looking for liquid courage, settlers planted apple trees as a way to stake claims on land, many of them buying those trees from John Chapman, a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed. And because they didn’t want a good thing to go to waste, they juiced those apples then fermented into a boozy cider and consumed it for hydration.
Unlike our forefathers, I don’t wait for my juice to ferment; I save time and add my own booze. However, I run into problems with juicing apples in the first place. Doing it is a snap if you’re using a $300 juice extractor, but I, like a lot of you, don’t have one of those expensive workhorses in my kitchen. So I devised a simple method for separating the juice from the apple that uses a few basic pieces of equipment that can be found in most any home: A food processor, a salad spinner and some cheesecloth.
I begin with a blend of apples that I selected for its depth of flavor and balance between sweet and tart. Pick up two parts Red Delicious apples, two parts Granny Smith, one part Braeburn, and one part Honeycrisp. Quarter the apples and remove the stems and seeds. Load the quartered apples into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until roughly the consistency of chunky applesauce.
Next, use your salad spinner as a centrifuge to extract the precious juice from the pulp. To do so, cut two pieces of cheesecloth at a length three times the width of the spinner basket. Unfold the cheesecloth, and line the spinner bowl with the cheesecloth, overlapping at ninety-degree angles.
Pour the contents of the food processor into the cloth-lined basket, and fold the ends over to encase the pureed fruit. Operate the salad spinner until the juice begins to accumulate, pausing from time to time to empty the bowl into a separate container. It’s that easy.
Use apple juice immediately, or bottle, seal, and refrigerate. Consume within two days, but with this recipe, from my friend Scott Baird, bartender at Trick Dog in San Francisco, it probably won’t last that long.
2 oz. Ocho reposado tequila
½ oz. Ancho Reyes chile liqueur
¾ oz. lemon juice
4 oz. apple cider
¼ oz. grade A maple syrup
2 dashes Abbott’s bitters
Serve long with an apple slice and fresh grated cinnamon over the top.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.