Thanksgiving is one holiday when I don’t cook. Ours is a potluck feast that started with three families in 1980 and has grown to include spouses and children of the original children.
The host — the meal is always at the same house, a grand Victorian overlooking the Hudson River — prepares the turkey and the other families arrive with sides and desserts. My mom, from Texas, always makes her famous yam puff, cornbread stuffing and pecan pie. Our locavore friends prepare beautiful, colorful platters of roasted root vegetables. There’s even a green bean casserole — yes, topped with crunchy canned onions.
Me? I’m responsible for the silliness: the cocktails. The signature one has changed over the years with my whim and the trends (there have been Cosmopolitans and neon green apple martinis, I’m ashamed to admit). But lately, I’ve become firm in my belief that we should celebrate with this most American of holidays with a distinctly American liquor: Laird’s Applejack Brandy.
Laird & Company, America’s first distillery, opened in 1780, so the recipe is nearly as old as America herself. (It stayed open during Prohibition by producing cider and applesauce.) George Washington is said to have asked for (and received) the recipe.
The cocktail we’ve been toasting with of late is one I’ve named the Carjack. I love that applejack makes a fine fall twist on a classic sidecar recipe: the apple-y flavor is seasonal and bright without being sickly sweet. The brandy warms you like a cool-weather drink should. And when we raise our glasses, it is in gratitude for American traditions: past, present and future.
8 ounces Laird’s Applejack Brandy
4 ounces Cointreau
2 ounces lemon juice
Chill four cocktail glasses. Combine brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice in a small pitcher and stir. Pour some into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into the chilled glasses. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Yield: 4 drinks.