From the NY Times
1 oz. apple cider or juice (I used Martinelli apple juice)
1 oz. Laird's Applejack
1 oz. smoky Scottish whisky (I used Laphroaig cask strength)
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 dashes bitters (Angostura works).
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir for 30 seconds. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with an apple fan or a slice of apple.
Laphroaig cask strength whisky isn't for the weak. It'll knock your head off. It's briny, medicinal, oily and smoky, with just a hint of malty sweetness. The original NY Times version of this drink calls for Bowmore 12, which is an Islay whisky as well. If you have Bowmore, go for it. If Islay whisky isn't your thing, go with a blended scotch, like Monkey Shoulder, which works well in this drink and adds a hint of orange and vanilla. You could easily do this with a bourbon, but a rye would be better since you'd get more spice.
The Autumn Bonfire mellows out as it warms up. Once the smoke and the peat dissipate, you start picking up more notes from the Laird's Applejack, especially as the ice melts. Apple juice or cider (non-alcoholic) in cocktails usually leads to a sweet drink, but that's not the case with the Autumn Bonfire. It's a relaxed sweet, not cloying.
Tom Waits once said, "Everything is a potential instrument, it depends on how you use it." A crazy smokey peaty scotch is such an instrument when building a cocktail. It might seem over the top at first, but it just might work. It depends how you use it.
An Autumn Bonfire works excellent with Bad as Me by Waits. Bad as Me opens with a frantic and frenetic bluesy and blustery mix of baritone saxophone, banjo, a propulsive marching beat and Waits belting out in his gravely voice:
The seeds are planted here
But they won’t grow
We won’t have to say goodbye
If we all go
Maybe things will be better in Chicago
It's a song that hits you in the face, much like the brawlers that Tom likes to write. Then a handful of songs later Tom sings a sweet lullaby and you wonder how the same crazy person in the first track can write something as beautiful as "The Last Leaf".