Even if the thermometer doesn’t yet agree, the first day of autumn is here, meaning it’s time for back-to-school—and fall flavors. When we think about fall, one of the first flavors we associate with it is apple. Apple ciders, apple pie, apple fritters——it all tastes like autumn. So, while we may not recommend plunking one of these offerings down on a teacher’s desk, we wholeheartedly endorse getting into the fall groove with these delicious apple drinks.
Catoctin Creek Distilling Quarter Branch Apple Brandy
($30, Prestige Ladroit Distributing)
Virginia has a history of making not only apple ciders, but also brandy. Both beverages rely on the same varieties of apples, which are rarely good for eating. For its brandy, whiskey maker Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. sources cider made with apples from a local cider producer. The fermented cider is distilled, then aged for two years in white oak casks. This brandy shows off floral apple notes along with hints of spice and vanilla. This is a fine digestif on its own, but also elevates autumn cocktails like apple brandy’s less sophisticated cousin, applejack.
Graft Farm Flor Cider
($12, four-pack cans, Legends)
There was a time when hard cider was limited to dry artisanal ciders from Europe and sparkling ciders from the U.S. As interest grew, so did the expressions of cider. There are now offerings from several states. Styles range from dry to sticky sweet, and this one from Graft Cidery in New York is definitely dry. Paying homage to the traditional ciders of France’s Normandy region and Spain’s Basque country, this barrel-aged cider is tart, rustic, and funky. Serve with cheese, bread, and dry sausage.
Morin Pommeau de Normandie
($23, 750 ml, Kysela Pere et Fils)
Established in the late 19th century, the family-owned Morin is known for producing Normandy’s signature apple brandy, Calvados. But equally of note is their Pommeau, which few distillers make anymore. This enchanting drink is made with two parts unfermented Normandy cider married to one part one-year-old Calvados brandy. This mixture is transferred to oak casks, where it rests for 30 months before bottling. Apple and prune notes swirl with tones of honey, cocoa, and caramel. Serve neat as a digestif or pair with dessert crepes, apple scented crème brûlée, or apple galette