Fallen Leaves

The season changed early in Seattle this year. Our first sullen downpour struck over Labor Day weekend, and the branches of the maple tree outside my living room windows were touched with yellow and orange just a few days later. Now, only two days into October, the incessant drizzle has begun, and a drive from our home in the Central District up 23rd Avenue toward the Montlake Bridge takes us through a riot of color in the hemlock and maple trees lining the street.

With autumn comes the mind-boggling array of apple varieties that have gradually appeared at the farmers markets I’ve grown addicted to in the past couple of years. As a non-native to the Northwest and only a fairweather fan of apples, I’m still surprised by how many different kinds of the damn things actually exist around here. Today, at the Broadway farmers market, I only picked up a few Galas, but I’m trying to branch out this season to try types I’ve never heard of, much less tasted: Cox Orange Pippins and Nick-A-Jacks, Prairie Spy and Honey Crisps.

With the prevalance of tree fruits in this part of the country, it’s not surprising that some of the finest fruit brandies in the nation, and possibly the world, are made in the Pacific Northwest. Clear Creek Distillery, down the road in Portland, makes an exceptional aged calvados-style apple brandy, along with heady eau-de-vies from the region’s pears, cherries and plums, not to mention a line of grappas that I have yet to begin exploring.

On autumn days, a fitting and especially satisfying drink is the Fallen Leaves, made with Clear Creek’s 8-year-old Eau de Vie de Pomme. This apple brandy is round and mellow when tasted neat, with the faintest essence of apples around the edges. For some reason, when mixed with sweet and dry vermouth with just a dash of brandy, this apple character becomes more evident. I first came across this drink on Drinkboy’s site, and he credits its creation to Charles Schumann, who published the recipe in American Bar in 1982. Visually, the Fallen Leaves resembles exactly that–gold and red in the glass–and with this apple essence, the drink is a perfect companion for an October evening.

Fallen Leaves

  • 3/4 ounce calvados or similar apple brandy
  • 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/4 ounce dry vermouth
  • dash brandy

Stir with ice and strain into glass; twist a nice piece of lemon peel over the drink and use as garnish.

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