Photo and styling by Tyler Zielinski
In the pantheon of maligned cocktails, from the Cosmo to the Bahama Mama, no combination of ingredients may be as scorned in modern drinking culture as the dreaded Appletini.
Neon green, often accented by an equally vibrant maraschino cherry, on the surface this ’90s mainstay has zero redeemable qualities beyond its possible ability to revive a person suffering from dangerously low blood sugar levels. Created at the now-shuttered Lola’s in Los Angeles, reportedly in an attempt to use up a dusty bottle of DeKuyper Pucker Sour Apple Schnapps, the drink was the culmination of an era of fruit-’tinis that mostly consisted of vodka, sugar and some kind of artificial fruit flavoring.
It may seem ridiculous and unnecessary to rehabilitate the cocktail equivalent of Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping,” but apple-based spirits have a long, venerable history that isn’t reflected in the fruit’s most famous namesake (and curiously apple-free) cocktail. And so, this recipe for an updated “appletini” attempts to offer the sweet-and-sour, easy-drinking profile of the original, while using easy-to-find ingredients to highlight actual apple spirits rather than the candy-factory interpretation of the fruit.
This recipe opts for Calvados, a French apple brandy known for its accessibility and prominent fruit-forward profile, especially in younger bottlings, but you can substitute any available apple brandy. A combination of fresh lemon and elderflower liqueur provides the “sour pucker” and keeping some of the original’s sweet, candy-like appeal. Feel free to pair with your favorite “Now That’s What I Call Music!” compilation.
Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously 10–15 seconds, until well chilled. Pour into chilled coupe, Nick & Nora or martini glass. Garnish with apple slice.