Shenandoah Cyd Car

We recently attended an event, held by the Virginia Distillers Association, where we were able to try all kinds of spirits produced in the Old Dominion. Virginia has a number of distillers making very good bourbon and rye (which we have previously featured in our Peach Cobbler Bourbon Slush and Chesapeake Bay cocktail recipes). It’s also home to founding father George Washington’s Distillery - located on his Mount Vernon estate. The Mount Vernon Distillery produces a small amount of rye and brandy using very traditional methods. They offer a great tour tour (from April to October) where we learned that, following the revolutionary war, George Washington was one of the largest producers of whiskey in America. 

So, how does it happen that the main ingredient in this Virginia-inspired cocktail is a product of New Jersery (Laird’s Applejack)? Well, as it turns out Laird’s Applejack not only has a connection to George Washington, but since the 1970’s the Laird family has sourced it’s apples from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Laird’s, which dates to 1698, is the oldest family owned distillery in America. George Washington wrote to the Laird family to request their applejack recipe, and entries appear in Washington’s diary in the 1760’s regarding his production of “cyder spirits”. The distillery at Mount Vernon produces a very limited amount of apple brandy each fall, but it’s a bit precious to use in a cocktail. We wanted to create a fall-themed cocktail, so applejack seemed like the right place to start. Once we realized that Laird’s Applejack has a strong connection to Virginia, we decided that we would pair it with a couple of Virginia up-starts.

Vitae Spirits in Charlottesville, Virginia produces several small batch spirits. We were intrigued by their orange liqueur because it uses bitter hardy orange collected locally. These oranges do not have a flavor that would allow them to be used for orange juice (they’re rather bitter and sour), but when the zest is combined with sweet orange and some spice, the result is an excellent (and less sweet) alternative to triple sec.

Another of our finds from the Virginia Distillers event was Keep it Simple Syrup. While we typically make our own simple syrups at home, it’s nice to have some on hand. We thought that their cinnamon infused syrup (produced in Richmond, Virginia) would work nicely in a fall cocktail and would be great to use in coffee and desserts.

This cocktail turned out to be an autumnal version of a sidecar - with its roots in Virginia. We were happy with the recipe and had a final draft of this blog post all ready (but hadn't posted it online yet) when we decided to take a drive out of the city on a nice autumn afternoon. Our destination turned out to be the Catoctin Creek Distillery in Purcellville, Virginia (about an hour outside of Washington, DC). They have a terrific tasting room and offer a tour of their small distillery. There aren't that many craft distillers producing applejack or apple brandy in the United States, so when we got to the tasting room, we were surprised to find that Catoctin Creek produces a very nice apple brandy. Well! We had just written this paragraph justifying our use of a New Jersey applejack in this Virginia cocktail and now we discover that there is an option from a Virginia distillery. We headed home with our stash of brandy and gave it a try in the recipe. It was terrific, but we realize that it's probably going to be difficult for most of you to find Catoctin Creek Quarter Branch Apple Brandy (it's not available in our local liquor stores), so Laird's Applejack is still a good choice here.

We have included some of the Cocktail Artist's fall watercolor sketches in this post, along with a (just completed) painting of the Catoctin Creek Distillery.  It's a nice time of year for a car ride in the countryside and for a good autumn-themed cocktail.


Shenandoah Cyd Car

2 ounces Laird’s Applejack or Catoctin Creek Quarter Branch Apple Brandy
1 ounce Vitae Spirits Orange Liqueur
3/4 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce Keep it Simple Syrup Cinnamon Syrup
2 dashes ginger bitters
3/4 ounce egg white

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake 30 - 60 seconds until egg white is frothy. Add ice cubes to the shaker and shake for an additional 20 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist and seasonal blossoms.

The "first draft" Shenandoah Cyd Car ingredients
The "All Virginia Distiller" version ingredients 

Catoctin Creek Distillery - original watercolor painting by The Cocktail Artist

Tonal watercolor sketch by The Cocktail Artist

Watercolor sketch by The Cocktail Artist

Autumn Tones - original watercolor painting by The Cocktail Artist

Skyline Drive, Virginia - original watercolor painting by The Cocktail Artist

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