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Local Libations: The Chapman Old Fashioned

2010 November 5

We have a special treat on Local Libations today – our New York City cocktail contributors Andrew and Han are working together to tantalize your taste buds and help you start the weekend in style.  Here’s Andrew:

Chapman Old Fashioned Ingredients

Diffuse sun fell into the room as I half-staggered through Han’s front door.  It was too early for me to be awake and I was out of breath from the five flights.  I stood there shedding my fall layers, surprised to be smelling wood smoke.  Han has a fireplace in his apartment that, if I didn’t like him so much, would probably cause me to hate him.  Han and his girlfriend just had their first fire a couple of days before and the gritty, warm, smell permeated the apartment.  The bare floorboards, exposed brick and lingering fire smell were enough to put me in the cocktail mixing mood.  Brianna’s spicy Butternut Fritters with Lentils and Spinach spurred us into Old Fashioned territory.  As with most things in the world of cocktails, the recipe for an Old Fashioned is hotly contested, but the generally agreed upon ingredients are whiskey (typically rye or bourbon), sugar, and bitters.  Toss some ice in, stir it, and that’s that.  As with most classics, there are endless permutations over which their creators love to argue.  I stand by the adage that you should experiment until you find what you like and then do that.  Make that drink.

Taking advantage of the bounty of New York’s farmer’s markets, and eschewing sugar or simple syrup, Han suggested we use Wood Homestead Maple Syrup, based out of Stamford NY.  I’m not a huge fan of syrup in general and I would never think to put it in a drink, but it’s actually a stroke of genius.  The danger in using maple syrup would be one of viscosity, but the Homestead Maple Syrup is smooth and not too thick.  We used a hefty dose in an effort to get the maple flavor to come through.  It dissolved very nicely under the acidity of the Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters.  Han and I are both big fans of Fee Brothers, a local line of bitters (see The Manhattan Local); their Aromatic Bitters have a pleasant cinnamon profile that accentuates our base liquor and gives the drink a an extra seasonal feel.

Based on the Midwestern tradition of using brandy for  an Old Fashioned, we chose the Laird’s company’s Bonded Apple Brandy as our star ingredient.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Laird’s is bottled in Scobeyville, New Jersey.  The apples they use in their spirits come from North Garden Virginia.  Bonded brandy differs from Applejack in that it lacks the grain neutral spirits; where Applejack is 80 proof, bonded brandy weighs in at an intimidating 100.  The apartment smelled like a cabin in the woods as we watched the ingredients swirling darkly in the glass before us.  We wiped our sweating brows and added a couple ice cubes.  Gently stirring the contents, we added a spiral of Red Delicious apple peel to release a precious last layer of apple in the brandy.  We felt like trail blazers carrying the gift of inner warmth to pioneers on a cold fall night, never mind that it was 11:00 in the morning and I had a bus to catch.  In that spirit, we offer you The Chapman Old Fashioned.

Making a Chapman Old Fashioned

The Chapman Old Fashioned

Prep time: 2 minutes if you pre-peel the apple, 20 minutes if you taste the bonded apple brandy first.

Yield: 1 serving

Tools: Jiggers or measuring tools for 2 oz, ½ oz, and ¾ oz, Old Fashioned glass or any heavy bottomed tumbler, Spoon, Knife or Peeler


  • 2 1/2 oz. Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
  • 2 generous dashes Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters
  • 3/4 oz. Wood Homestead Maple Syrup
  • apple peel

Cooking Directions

  1. Pour ¾ oz of Wood Homestead Maple Syrup into glass.
  2. Add two dashes of Fee Bros. Aromatic Bitters.
  3. Add ice.
  4. Add 2 ½ oz of Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
  5. Stir.
  6. Garnish with apple peel.
  7. Drink.

    A note on the name of the Chapman Old Fashioned:

    Johnny Appleseed’s real name was John Chapman and, in his book The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan debunks some of the myth surrounding the fascinating man.  He explains that every apple seed produces a different variety of apple and, while most of these varieties are inedible, they can all be made into cider.  Referring to him as the “American Dionysus,” Pollan explains that in effect, Chapman was bringing liquor to the frontier, which is a good part of the reason he was so readily welcomed into frontier communities.


    Chapman Old Fashioned