This month’s theme for MxMo is a bit of a soft pass over home goal.  Something like that?  Sports metaphors are not my forte.  But let me welcome you to this month’s most disinterested-in-the-great-American-pastimes cocktail blog roundup, hosted by Vidiot at Cocktailians.  The theme is vermouth, one of the most common classic (and nouveau) cocktail ingredients, although Vidiot has been kind enough to stretch the invitation to include all aromatized wines so that everyone who has actually managed to get their hands on Cocchi Americano can make me want to internet-punch them in the face.

While I am not one of the chosen few who has so far been able to get their hands on what is reputed to be an accurate clone of Kina Lillet, the independent wine store run by kind of weird hipsters in my area, The Corkscrew, has started stocking Dolin vermouths – which were cool, like, nine months ago.  It’s always cooler to be late to the party, right?  Right.  Specifically, I was interested in the Dolin Blanc, since I had loved the idea of white vermouth from before I started getting into cocktails, but had been disappointed with the Cinzano Bianco I first tried.  Furthermore, Jason Wilson had posted a recipe for a cocktail he was calling the Orchard Keeper, a mixture of Calvados, Dolin Blanc, and honey syrup, which recalls a cool riff on a Manhattan.

Since I’m a better refiner than creator, I’m going to go ahead and use the Orchard Keeper as my submission for this MxMo, but I need to give credits for the refinements and variations to my lovely assistant and girlfriend.  Of the two of us, she has the patience to make small variations for side-by-side comparisons, while I fill the critical, peevishly-wondering-where-my-drink-is role.  It is thanks to her that the world can finally know whether Laird’s 100-proof Apple Brandy or Christian Drouin Calvados makes a superior Orchard Keeper.

Orchard Keeper

Orchard Keeper (Original Recipe)
By Jason Wilson

  • 2 oz Calvados (I used Christian Drouin)
  • 3/4 oz white vermouth (I used Dolin Blanc)
  • 1/2 oz honey syrup (1 part honey, 2 parts water)
    Stir all ingredients with ice.  Strain into a cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist.

Jason Wilson claims that this cocktail isn’t too sweet and, the first time I made it (with Laird’s 100-proof Bonded Apple Brandy), it wasn’t.  The woody kick of that liquor, much like bourbon or rye, benefits from some tempering with sugar.  But Calvados, which is thinner and sweeter, pushed this recipe into too-sweet territory.

Orchard Keeper (my recipe)

  • Yeah, it’s the same thing but with Laird’s.  I don’t really need to spell it out, do I?

So I originally liked the Laird’s over the Calvados in this recipe.  But I have to admit that the Laird’s is less interesting.  It doesn’t scream apple.  It, really, is just a Manhattan with white vermouth (seriously, Laird’s is not all that different from a nice, rounded bourbon – I imagine it’s aged in new oak for at least some period of time).  So, after some tinkering, we had the idea to reduce the honey syrup. Just crazy enough to work, right?

Orchard Keeper (best recipe)

  • 2 oz Calvados (Christian Drouin)
  • 3/4 oz white vermouth (Dolin Blanc)
  • 1/4 oz honey syrup (2:1::water:honey)
    Do the same thing as before, but better.

So there you have it, folks.  It took a lot of work, and we had to drink a lot of cocktails, but it was worth it.  We drink them so you don’t have to.