Even for those of us born and bred in the south, the idea of apple butter in a cocktail might sound like someone already had one too many. But according to Salon writer, Ashlie D. Stevens, we ought not knock it until we’ve tried it.
Last fall, Nashville House, a storied family-style restaurant and country store in Nashville, Ind., announced that it would be closing after 91 years in business. “In a few days, you’ll no longer be able to smell fried biscuits wafting from the corner of Main and Van Buren,” the announcement in the local paper began.
My boyfriend, Stephen, and I had only been dating for a few months, but together we took the flat, gray drive up to the small Midwestern tourist trap of a town — filled with rows of cottage-like shops peddling tie-dye t-shirts and artisan wind chimes — with a singular mission: clean out Nashville House of any remaining jars of apple butter. For the uninitiated, apple butter is essentially concentrated apple sauce, but the way it’s prepared and cooked makes it caramelized and spreadable. It’s far more intense . . . and decadent.
By the time we arrived, the store was almost completely picked over. The candy barrels were running low, a cashier was sweeping up a punctured bag of grits, a customer was waiting in line with ropes of black licorice wound around his arms and a cast-iron skillet in each hand. Jars of fruit butter were held behind the counter, out of the customers’ reach much like cigarettes at a convenience store; there was a loose limit on how many you could buy.
“Try and leave some for the people behind you,” the lead cashier, a woman with frosty blonde hair and an immaculate ruby manicure, commanded. We ultimately left with six jars of fruit butter — four apple, two peach — and have spent this last year eating through them. Initially, we used it sparingly, but six jars actually goes a long way, even when slathered on biscuits and toast (or just eaten by the spoonful).
There’s one jar of Nashville House apple butter left in our kitchen, and there’s a sense that we need to do something special with it. I wasn’t totally sure what — apple stack cake was a strong contender — until I tried the Fall 75 cocktail at The Corner Kitchen in Asheville, NC.
“The Fall 75 is a Corner Kitchen twist on the French 75, which is typically a combination of gin, lemon, simple syrup, and champagne,” said Rachel Henry Morgan, the general manager of Corner Kitchen.
In their version, Morgan subs in apple butter for the simple syrup. It’s a tiny change, but it makes a huge difference, imbuing the cocktail with a really pleasant, cinnamon-y complexity. They use local apple butter from Imladris Farms in Fairview, NC., but as kitchen icon Ina Garten would say, “store-bought is fine.”