Another cider cocktail. It seemed fitting, now firmly entrenched as part of a new tradition. I couldn’t let the last pages of autumn turn without at least another attempt and fresh take on a cider cocktail. Something to set it apart from all the cider cocktails that flood the scene this time of year. Every year.
First there was the Cider Rum Punch I made just over two years and then last year I was at it again with The Bourbon Bomber for The Boys Club. This time it’s a little more complex with flavours that work fluidly with each other while reminding you of the subtleties of fall with each sip.
When I slip into the trappings of autumn, cider is one of the calling cards of the season that eases me into it. Settles me down into the relaxed pace synonymous with fall. A warm pot on a chilly evening sitting in front of one of the first fires of the season. And a cold cocktail on the unseasonably warm afternoons. A cocktail to help you absorb the true beauty fall has to offer.
Some days are laced with moments where the warm sun traces the afternoon sky long enough to entice us. To remove the extra layer of clothing, soak up the sun while it radiates warmth and sit back with a drink splashed in autumn’s glory. These are the days, although the numbers are shrinking. Day by day.
This particular cider is punched with apple syrup, maple syrup and chilled chai tea. Rich and deep flavours with intoxicating aromas. The last great cider cocktail you’ll need before you watch autumn slip away. And to help you remember everything it left behind.
From my kitchen to yours.
- 1.5 oz. spiced rum
- 2 oz. apple cider
- 2 oz. apple syrup
- 2 oz. hot chai tea, chilled
- 1 tsp. maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cinnamon stick
- 1 clove
- Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until combined and chill.
- Strain into an ice-filled rock glass and garnish with an apple slice and piece of a cinnamon stick.
*To make the apple syrup, dissolve equal parts water and sugar over high heat. Grate 1/2 an apple and add 1 cinnamon stick into the boiling mixture, simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool.
Autumn. A season built on nostalgia and near-magical moments from our childhood. Family gatherings, crimson leaves floating end over end, dropping temperatures and layers of clothing, early dusk hours and comfort food. The beginning of a new normal, days that enter abruptly and end softly, bringing glorious colourful sunsets with them and evenings that have us yearning for the kind of foods that stick to our soul.
I remember my autumns as a child fondly. But I didn’t really appreciate them until recently. I hark back to days at my grandparent’s collecting leaves, not to bag them but to jump in them. Over and over. Again. The long drives from the big city to the small town, up past the old concrete bridge that marked the beginning of the end. Pulling into the driveway to see my grandmother perched in her well-worn recliner inside the big front window. Waiting.
It was in their small house and even smaller kitchen where she would make me the comfort foods that I now expect in the fall. I’d work up an appetite by raking the leaves while she watched from the kitchen window. And when I walked through the side door and directly into the kitchen the aroma would wash over me and nearly knock me over. That memory never left me. It occasionally catches up to me, reminding me of how lucky I was.
So on one of the first cold evenings of the year, I collected my thoughts and made my own version of a childhood classic. Mac and Cheese.
My recipe doesn’t look anything like my grandmother’s, but it does have the bones of it in it. Rich, creamy cheese and a crisp topping. The foundation of mine is garlic and thyme, flour and cream. A thick base for the cheese. Every element combines to make this a rich, flavourful and crispy mac and cheese that is the epitome of comfort and autumn.
From my kitchen to yours.
Mac and Cheese
- 4 cups of elbow macaroni
- 3 tbsp. butter
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
- 1/3 cup flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp. mustard powder
- 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. grated cardamom
- sea salt & ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese
- 1 1/2 cups grated aged white cheddar
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs (topping)
- 3 tbsp. Parmesan cheese (topping)
- 1 tsp. chopped thyme (topping)
- 1 tbsp. butter (topping)
- Preheat oven to 400F degrees.
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook your pasta according to directions. Cook until al dente. Drain.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and thyme, cooking for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for a further 2 minutes, whisking continuously. Slowly pour in the milk and cream, whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth. Stir with a wooden spoon until it coats the back of the spoon, about 8 minutes.
- Whisk in mustard, nutmeg, cardamom, and salt and pepper. Fold in the three cheeses until smooth. Add in the pasta and fold to combine. Grease 8 ramekins or one 2.5 L baking dish and spoon in the pasta mixture evenly.
- Meanwhile, using a saute pan, melt the butter and fold in the thyme, panko and parmesan until well mixed. Sprinkle over top of the pasta mixture.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the topping is golden. Let stand until slightly cooled.