In Scottish households it’s a New Year’s tradition to scour the house clean on December 31st to prepare for the coming year.  My household has a fair whack of Scots’ influence, and I will say we passed the vacuum over the rugs on the 31st, but it wasn’t until January 3rd, when I broke a jar on the tiles by the pantry door, that I tackled what has become a black hole at the centre of our home.  

Our pantry used to be a coat cupboard in the front hall next to the kitchen, but as the cooking experiments grew in number and kind we had to move the clothing and install shelves to contain the ever-proliferating edibles. Now there are rows and rows of jars containing jams, jellies, chutneys and syrups, there are dried mushrooms and herbs, jugs of birch syrup, bins of oats and flour and random cases of espresso stout and birch beer (for cooking, you understand).

The trouble is, the rate of production seems to exceed the rate of consumption. We’re running out of space. It’s hard to find the marmalade. Jars are getting broken.  

So, I have a resolution — you saw it coming. Starting with the bottom shelf, where the experimental liquors live, we’re going to drink, devour, guzzle and ingest the contents of the cupboard until the shelves are bare. If that means inventing new cocktails with homemade ingredients for the next few months, so be it.

First up: apple old-fashioned with homemade apple vodka, syrup and liqueur. Warning: tackling these recipes may result in an overstocked, black hole at the centre of your home. Please accept my apologies in advance.


Apple Old Fashioned

1 ½ oz. Pere Lagloire Calvados

¾ oz. crabapple vodka

¼ oz. crabapple liqueur

1 tsp. apple syrup

3 dashes rhubarb bitters

1 lemon twist

Stir all ingredients over ice, then strain into a rocks glass over one large ice cube and garnish with the lemon twist.


Apple Vodka

The flavour mellows beautifully over time, but if you must try it right away, it will be no harsher than the vodka you started with — select a good vodka. The end result will be more sweet or sour depending on the apples you choose. Experiment.

3 cups (750 mL) crabapples, washed, stemmed and quartered *substitute MacIntosh, Braeburn or Ambrosia apples, washed, stemmed and roughly chopped.

3 cups (750mL) good quality vodka

Pack prepared apples into a sterile, wide-mouthed jar. Pour vodka over top. Shake to distribute. Store in a cool, dark place for 10 days to three weeks, turning the jar over daily. Strain through a sieve into a bowl, then through a coffee filter into a sterile jar. Store in a dark place and try to refrain from opening for three months.

Yield: about 3 cups (750 mL).


Apple Syrup

For a variation, substitute white wine for 1 cup (250 mL) of the water. Adjust lemon juice up or down depending on the sweetness of the wine.

4 cups (1 L) washed, stemmed and quartered apples

2 to 3 cups (500 to 750 mL) water

2 to 3 Tbsp. (30 to 45 mL) lemon juice—about one lemon

½ to 1 cup (125 to 250 mL) sugar

Place apples in a medium saucepan and cover with water by 1 inch (2.5 cm). Bring to the boil over medium heat, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until apples are mushy. Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth into a clean saucepan. Measure liquid, and add 1 tablespoon (15 mL) lemon juice for each cup (250 mL). Add sugar to taste. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes, or until liquid is the consistency of maple syrup. Pour into sterile jars, cool, seal and refrigerate. Will keep for two to three months.  

Yield: About 2 cups (500 mL).


Apple Liqueur

2 cups (500 mL) apple vodka

2 to 4 Tbsp. (30-60 mL) apple syrup

Combine vodka and syrup in a jar, starting with 2 tablespoons syrup, and keep adding and stirring until the liqueur reaches desired sweetness. The flavour improves over three to six months, but the liqueur is drinkable right away.

Yield: just over 2 cups (500 mL).