I’m a bit nerdy. Yeah, I know, this is something that, these days, sorority girls say to explain why they like watching intellectual shows like CSI: Reno (“I’ve made a huge tiny mistake”). But I have the emotional scars and bullying stories to show for it. I played D&D back when TSR owned it. I performed an Animaniacs song at my 5th-grade talent show (participation was, somewhat unjustly, mandatory). I own almost as many board games as I do bottles. I could go on, but I’d just embarrass both of us. Really, this unasked-for confession is just to set the stage for the cocktail of the week, which is inspired, as should more things be, by a Terry Pratchett novel.
Terry Pratchett, for those few readers who may not know (seriously?), is a fantasy writer whose main work is a series of novels, called Discworld, that began as a parody of pulp fantasy and became a wry, humanistic study of human nature. His novels are funny and touching and easy to read. I could spend a lot of time talking about (justifying my love for) his writing, but let’s go straight to a particular, minor, recurring detail. There is an alcoholic drink in his universe, roughly analogous to cider-based moonshine, called “scumble”. In the Discworld universe it is a given that this drink, which is made of “apples – well, mostly apples”, is delicious and potent to the point of being a humorous plot device.
Here is my take on it.
Scumble (mine, with apologies to Sir Pratchett and everyone)
- 2 oz apple brandy (Clear Creek)
- 1/2 oz white vermouth (Dolin)
- 1/2 oz truffle liqueur (Distillerie Lachèze Liqueur a la Truffe)
- 1 barspoon honey syrup (1:1 honey:water)
- 1 dash citrus bitters (Scrappy’s Grapefruit)
Stir with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass, squeeze a lemon peel over, drop in.
I didn’t actually go out of my way to make a Scumble adaptation. I bought this Liqueur a la Truffe a couple months ago in DC, and it’s just been sitting on my bar, being all cool and obscure. Today I decided to make something with it. After the sniff test (open bottles, sniff, think deeply), I decided that the right pairing was apple brandy. Something about apples seems to welcome the musty, earthy, mushroomy notes of truffles. Rather than construct an entirely new recipe, I decided to try sliding it into the recipe for an Orchard Keeper.
And that worked really well! It removed some of the sweetness that bugs me about the original recipe, and replaced it with a sophisticated, complex background. To be honest, this cocktail reminded me of well-made hard cider. It’s very recognizably apple-y, but with notes of fermentation and funk that make it into a grown-up’s drink. Yes, I am mocking you, Woodchuck drinkers (oh, hey, that’s local).
As I drank the cocktail, some inner voice kept repeating “mostly apples”. So we’ll call it Scumble, because, deep as you bury it, you never really lose that part of you that thinks that, really, Death has to TALK LIKE THIS. Why pretend otherwise?