For the holidays, old favorites are entitled to a sprucing up. Case in point, the apple pie. Nothing is more American and no dessert is more satisfying than apple pie, hot from the oven, topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Delicious as it is but don't special occasions call for special ingredients?
Whisky's smoky sweetness seems like a perfect companion for apple pie's richly comforting wholesomeness.
My mother made apple pie for Thanksgiving and Chanukah. The peels would be turned into apple sauce, a side dish that was delicious with corn bread stuffing or latkes. Her recipe was the essence of simplicity. One of those dishes that intuitively adheres to the principle of "let the ingredients speak for themselves."
At a time when farmers markets didn't exist in cities, my mom would pack my sister and myself into her Dodge and we'd head out to the farms in the areas surrounding Banning, California, the small town on the way to Palm Springs where we lived during my high school years.
Sometimes we'd stop at stands along the highway and buy a basket of apples, maybe a pumpkin or two, and a grocery bag filled with lettuce, beans and onions. When she had decided we would make a whole day out of the trip, we would go to one of the many U-Pick 'Em apple orchards in the area. My sister and I would clamber up the tall ladders, my mother holding on to the bottom as we picked apples and deposited them in the pails provided by the farmer.
Happily we don't have to travel as far now, since farmers markets bring fresh apples to our neighborhood on Sunday in Pacific Palisades and Wednesday and Saturday in Santa Monica. The Fuji apples from Ha Farms are firm and sweet and make an especially good apple pie.
The nice folks at Maker's Mark gifted me with a bottle of their whisky, the idea being I would come up with a nifty cocktail for the holiday season.
Westside Tavern (10850 W. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064) in West Los Angeles.
Called the Proper Manhattan, the secret to their upgrade of the classic cocktail is the addition of Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6, manufactured in New Orleans by the Sazerac Company and sold locally at Wally's (2017 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064).
The addition of whisky to cakes is well established, but to pies, not so much. For many years, I've been tinkering with my mother's apple pie recipe--adding cream and crystalized ginger to the crust--so including whisky with the apples seemed like the perfect addition for a holiday apple pie.
Normally I wouldn't use whisky in cooking because the alcohol cooks off and I would much rather sip whisky than use it for flavoring, but a whisky apple pie, topped with a premium vanilla ice cream and served with shooters of Maker's Mark whisky and Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6 seems like a fine way to celebrate the holidays. Nothing like double-downing on a good thing.
1 1/2 ounces premium whisky
1/4 teaspoon dry vermouth
5 drops Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6
Keep the shot glasses, whisky, vermouth and bitters in the freezer. When ready to serve, take everything out of the freezer, measure, mix, pour and consume the shots along with a slice of the whisky apple pie.
Whisky Apple Pie
Use any variety of apple you enjoy. I like Fuji apples which are sweet so I can use less sugar.
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Remove. Let cool on a wire rack. Remove the weights.