Photo: Warren Bobrow
Suddenly, without warning, the mint has gone from a thing of lush and spicy beauty to over half the usual summertime size. It’s time for me to harvest the remaining leaves and dry them for herbal tea laced toddy cocktails.
This morning it was about 40 degrees out in the garden. The roses are undergoing a third flush, they are intensely fragrant with the scents of citrus and tobacco. The Kentucky Colonel Mint, over by the boxwood hedge against the warm clapboards of the house gives a certain micro-climate to the mint, so it has survived the unusually cool fall weather without being damaged too badly at night.
I recognized this weather from my childhood when it seemed to snow more and get cold earlier. Sometime during this past summer the squirrels started to act strangely: seeking out acorns and attaching themselves to the task of building nests for the winter, they were in a frenzy far too early. Now with the change of the leaves from dark green to vividly orange, red and yellow, the little creatures are getting a thick coat of fur.
Will it be a harsh winter? I’m still not sure, but one thing is for certain, with the amount of liquor at home to still be tasted, I imagine that it will be a blurry one!
Four Roses makes a couple of really fine Bourbon expressions. Their Small Batch when combined with Calvados- (you know, that firewater that comes from Normandy in France) is a whiff of dried leaves, tart apples and the ever-present knowledge that in the right hands, deep inner warming is only a few sips away.
Now I must stop right here and say that after attending “Outward Bound” during prep school and freezing my butt off in the pouring rain on an inhospitable island off the coast of Maine, alcohol should NEVER be used to warm up when outside.
You’ll have major problems like freezing without knowing it.
On a lighter note, I’m roasting some apples in the oven, filling the house with sweet aromas of the fall. Cooking them low and slow. I like a nice Macoun variety of apple. They are richly flavored and quite dense in texture. I like to sprinkle some spiced Chai tea over some thick slices of the apple and roast them at 250 for an hour. I also sprinkle a bit of brandy over them to keep them moist and aromatic.
They are allowed to cool for a while so you can handle them easily. This toddy is the perfect thing to put in a thermos for a buzzy walk in the woods while watching the changing colors. The hand-held heat bomb is rife with the aromas of spiced chai tea with nearly caramelized warmed milk and other intoxicating liquors. A gorgeous, warming, hot punch comprised of grilled blood oranges/muddled apples and roasted sugar pumpkin. A bit of lemon juice, always freshly squeezed, Bitter End Jamaican Jerk Bitters and Royal Rose Simple Syrup of Cardamom and Cloves finish it off.
I call this Hot Punch the Swan’s Island Toddy there are a couple of steps that should be done prior to making this drink
Roast in a slow oven set to 250 degrees several thick slices of Macoun apples and a couple of tiny sugar pumpkins, split- seeded and both sprinkled with brandy and some brown sugar. Roast for about an hour then let cool.
Blood oranges will be along before long, but you can use regular Florida navel oranges for this part of the toddy. Slice some really juicy oranges in thick slices. Grill or sear until just browned then let cool.
Swan’s Island Toddy
Roasted Macoun Apples
Roasted Sugar Pumpkin
Grilled or Seared Oranges
Four Roses Small Batch Whiskey
Calvados or Apple Jack (Laird’s makes a powerfully delicious Bottled-in-Bond Apple Jack. Find it!)
Royal Rose Simple Syrup of Cardamom and Clove
Bitter End Jamaican Jerk Bitters
Lemon juice (always freshly squeezed)
Nutmeg (always freshly scraped)
Steamed milk or soy milk
Preparation: *makes more than a couple really nice hot drinks*
Make a pot of Chai Spiced Tea, keep hot
Steam some milk or soy milk and keep hot
To a Boston Shaker, muddle some orange slices with the roasted sugar pumpkin and roasted apple slices
To the Boston Shaker add 6 oz. Four Roses Small Batch Whiskey and mix to combine with -
Add: 4 oz. Calvados or Apple Jack
Add: 6 Tablespoons Royal Rose Simple Syrup of Cardamom and Clove
Add: Six or more drops of the Bitter End Jamaican Jerk Bitters
Add a couple bar spoons of lemon juice for balance
Shake without ice to combine
Strain and add to pre-heated mugs and top with the hot Chai Tea
Spoon some of the hot milk over the top, sprinkle some freshly scraped nutmeg as well
Garnish with a sprigs of fresh mint to finish
Danger level 5 out of 5! Danger! Danger!
You can also do this drink iced as a punch. Just make sure the quality of your ice matches the quality of your liquors. I use “Inspired Water” using a Mavea water pitcher system. The ice turns out almost clear without boiling first!