For about five minutes — before we remembered that we have an infant, a 6 year-old, two full-time jobs, a not very big apartment, an international business trip this month (sadly, not mine) are now doubting we are actually made of whatever is required to pull this off — we thought we might have a Friendsgiving dinner party this year. I love Thanksgiving and I want more of it in my life, ditto to friends and also dinner parties. Everything about this was going to awesome. I didn’t have to plan the menu to my perfect Thanksgiving dinner because I wrote it in my head probably five years ago and from what I hear, Alton Brown’s turkey recipe is the only one you’ll ever need. (Or should I dry brine? Or maybe this lacquered thing? Or maybe a mash-up of all of them? Or maybe just import a smoked one from Texas and be the most chilled out host in the history of Thanksgiving, ever, amiright?) Right, well, I had everything else planned out:
And this is where the fun began. I decided that a new tradition required a new special cocktail that would forever be tied to a time and place. In general, I’m a classicist about sangria. Like most of us, I’ve endured all sorts of disturbing ingredients masquerading as sangria — Sprite, frozen lemonade, coconut rum, basil, a ton of sugar (whhhy) which are all ingredients I’ve pulled from just the first few Google results for sangria — and try not to mess with what’s always worked. But, it turned out, I didn’t have to upend tradition too obnoxiously to make the apple cider sangria of my dreams. For the red wine, I used a dry white. For the brandy, I used an apple brandy or Calvados. Instead of a splash of juice, I used apple cider, which I’d reduced so it would be more concentrated and flavorful. I kept the less traditional Triple Sec in place, because I like the hint of orange, but you can skip it if you are less of a sangria blasphemist. And for the fruit, we used a mix of apples, because like everyone else, we overdid it at the apple farms in October.
The result was even better than I’d hoped, and apple-y in an adult way: subtle and not terribly sweet. As our kids ran up and down the hallways in an sugar-demonic haze, trick-or-treating through a friend’s building last weekend, we grownups got to sip from glasses of, uh, grown-up candy. (While saving the actual candy-thieving for after they fall asleep, as is our parental privilege, of course.)
One year ago: Sticky Toffee Pudding
Two years ago: Perfect, Uncluttered Chicken Stock
Three years ago: Granola-Crusted Nuts
Four years ago: Baked Pumpkin and Sour Cream Puddings
Five years ago: Upside-Down Cranberry Cake
Six years ago: Moroccan-Spiced Spaghetti Squash
Seven years ago: Pepita Brittle
Eight years ago: Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Sauteed Apples
Nine years ago: Not Your Mama’s Coleslaw
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Liege Waffles
1.5 Years Ago: Fresh Spinach Pasta
2.5 Years Ago: Essential Raised Waffles
3.5 Years Ago: Bacon Egg and Leek Risotto
4.5 Years Ago: Creme Brulee French Toasts
Apple Cider Sangria
Psst, here’s the other reason I rather love having a big pitcher or two of a single, seasonally-perfect, agreeable-to-most cocktail at dinner parties: it saves you a lot of work. Sure, you might still grab a six-pack of beer or a bottle or two of wine or bubbly, but for the most part, most people will drink what you’ve mixed and you won’t spend any time fussing about with tonics and gins and juice and bourbon and vodka. A good cocktail is efficient.
Makes 1 pitcher (about 1 quart) sangria; definitely double for a crowd
1 cup apple cider (the fresh kind, not the fizzy alcoholic kind)
1 bottle dry white wine
1/4 cup calvados or another apple brandy
1/4 cup Triple sec or another orange liqueur
Mixed colors of apples, diced and tossed with lemon juice to prevent browning
Seltzer, sparkling water or sparkling apple cider to finish
Place the apple cider in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce about 3/4 of the way, until you have approximately 1/4 cup apple cider left; this will take 10 to 15 minutes. Pour into small bowl set over a bowl of ice water and stir; it will cool very quickly this way.
Pour reduced, cooled cider into pitcher. Add wine, apple brandy and triple sec. Add fruit and let sit in the fridge until needed. Add some fizz right before serving; a slotted spoon will help guests hold back the fruit while pouring their glasses, and spoon some on top, if desired.