West End Punch
Based on a recipe in Maine Today featuring cocktails that use Maine maple syrup. This recipe is from Central Provisions, a farm-to-table restaurant and bar in Portland, ME. If you find yourself in Portland, you should go to Central Provisions for drinks and dinner. Highly recommended.
- 1 oz. Laird's Applejack
- 3/4 oz. bourbon (Original recipe calls for George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey but I tried a couple of different bourbons)
- 3/4 oz. rye (Original recipe calls for Old Overholt but I think Rittenhouse would be better)
- 1 oz. apple cider
- 1/2 oz. spiced maple syrup*
- A dash or two of cardamom bitters (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a Boston shaker. Add ice. Shake until cold. Strain over ice into a double old fashioned glass. Garnish with apple and lemon slice.
*Spiced maple syrup
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 2 star anise
- 1/2 cup Maine maple syrup
- 1/2 cup water
Toast spices in a dry skillet over medium heat until they are fragrant. In a small saucepan, combine water and maple syrup, bring to a boil. Add toasted spices and let steep for at least 30 minutes. Remove spices and chill syrup before using.
I rarely make punch. However, I decided to make this punch because it serves two people, not a crowd. I made two versions on different nights. The first night I followed the original recipe, with the exception that I substituted Temperance Trader bourbon for George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey. I couldn't justify picking up a bottle of whisky since we have a lot of bourbon in our house.
Overall, the first version of the punch had no distinct flavor. I expected the flavors from the Applejack, rye and bourbon to mingle in a way that played off of the spiced maple simple syrup and apple cider. I got a hint of the spiced maple syrup, but that was it. The punch didn't have much punch.
The second night I made this as a cocktail for myself. I used Buffalo Trace in place of the George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey, omitted the water and dialed-back the spiced maple simple syrup. I also added a few drops of cardamom bitters.
Version two had a more pronounced spirits backbone that was absent in the first version. I picked up a hint of rye and more char from the oak. The star anise and clove from the spiced maple simple syrup were more noticeable on the finish as well.
I had high expectations for this cocktail. It's not a bad drink and I can see how this would appeal to someone who wanted a nice, but tame refreshment. It's just too subdued for my palate. It was missing an acid and maybe a bitter. I think there is some potential to play around with some of the ingredients to make something damn good. You could omit the apple cider since the Applejack is an apple-based brandy, use Rittenhouse rye instead of Old Overholt to give it a more peppery rye bit, dial down the spiced maple syrup and add some freshly squeezed lemon juice. Shake over ice and serve up. Or, use the spiced maple simple syrup in an old fashioned. Have an idea? Share it in the comments below.
Picking the right album to go with a cocktail that doesn't hit all of the expected notes is tricky. That's why I'm pairing West End Punch with Punch the Clock by Elvis Costello and the Attractions. Punch the Clock is overstuffed with ideas, kind of like this drink, which is exactly why it works. While not a rousing success of an album, it did contain Costello's first US top 40 hit, "Everyday I Write the Book."