I love a good Manhattan--especially at this time of the year. My basic recipe is 2 ounces Bourbon, 1 ounce Dolin Red Vermouth, and a few dashes of Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry Bitters, stirred and served over one large cube. But sometimes, I like to mix it up a little. Nothing too crazy, but just a tweak here, or a riff there.
Recently, while chatting with John Wabeck, General Manager and beverage director at Spoon, and beverage consultant at the recently opened Grit + Grace (both in Pittsburgh), he told me about an Applejack version he was putting on the menu at Spoon. (DC folks will remember Wabeck as a fixture on the D.C. wine and dining scene, until he moved to the 'Burgh a year ago...)
Wabeck uses a melon baller on apples, stains them with grenadine, compresses them, and poaches them in a Cryovac. The end result looks like a cherry, (and has some of the flavor of Maraschino cherries, thanks to the grenadine), but with a decidedly different texture. He uses one to garnish his Apple Manhattan, pictured above (I cheated and used Luxardo Maraschino cherries, though.) Here's his recipe for the cocktail--the Applejack adds a very subtle apple flavor, and substituting Peychauds' for cherry or Angostura bitters ramps up the spice.
If you want to make the apple balls, but (like me) don't have a Cryovac setting around, you can get a similar result from scooping out apple pieces with the melon baller, and soaking them in high quality grenadine (or pomegranate juice mixed with sugar.)
Courtesy of John Wabeck, Spoon / Grit + Grace, Pittsburgh, PA
1 1/4 oz. Laird's Applejack Brandy
1 oz. Crown Royal
3/4 oz. red Vermouth
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
Cryovac apple ball (or cherry), for garnish
Add all except garnish to a cocktail shaker. Add cracked ice, and stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled rocks glass that has 1 large ice cube (or serve up in a chilled rocks glass.) Garnish with the apple ball or cherry.