I'm not a big fruit person, but I do love apples--their scent, texture (nice crisp ones only please), and flavor (the Pink Lady is my favorite, but I like most varieties that have a good tart/sweet balance). Unfortunately, this was an awful year for apples and apple farmers in western Michigan. Unseasonable 90 degree temperatures in March, followed by a very late April frost, killed off most of the local apple production. Maybe it was the dearth of local apples and cider that drove me to finally add a bottle of applejack to my home bar.
Laird's Applejack is the oldest commercially distilled American spirit. In the American colonies, the usual sources of whiskey--corn, rye, and barley--were not available. But apples were. These were made into cider, that was then distilled into applejack. Laird & Company started making applejack in New Jersey in 1698, and you can still buy a bottle of Laird's today. It's not very expensive, and it's the ingredient in a number of classic cocktails. It has a slight sweetness and, yes, a delicious apple flavor. (You can read much more about Laird & Company and the history of applejack in this New York Times article from 2005.)
I've mixed up a couple different applejack-y cocktails (it makes a nice hot toddy), but my favorite by far has been this very simple Applejack Old Fashioned (recipe found here). Here's what you do:
In a rocks glass, stir the following together:
*2 oz Laird's Applejack
*2 dashes bitters (Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged preferred; I used Fee Brothers Old Fashioned, and Angostura would work, also)
*1 tsp (or to taste--I like a bit less) maple syrup
After stirring, drop in a large ice cube or two, stir a bit more, and enjoy! This is a strong drink, but it has a very drinkable sweetness to it.