Apricot “Brandy”

Received the following question from BWonder on the Sea Breeze Cooler:

First off, let me say I love your blog and I use your improvements/substitutions to mix Savoy drinks at home quite often. One thing I don’t get is why you tend to use Apry and Orchard Apricot in place of apricot brandy. I have a bottle of Finger Lakes Distilling’s peach brandy (as well as Apry and Orchard Apricot), which I think is more similar to apricot brandy than an apricot liqueur. It makes a completely different drink. I’m in Rochester, NY – perhaps out on the west coast you can’t get a real peach/apricot brandy?

First, thanks for the kind comments! Always glad to hear the blog is read and appreciated.

Fruit Eau-de-Vie are used rarely in cocktails.

High quality Eau-de-Vie are too expensive, scarce, and hard to produce to be used in any quantity for cocktails.

You will not find a bottle of Apricot Eau-de-Vie in 99% of bars today, and that has not changed in the last 200+ years of cocktail history.

When a cocktail recipe calls for “Apricot Brandy”, 99.9% of the time, what the recipe is actually calling for is “Apricot Flavored Brandy” or “Apricot Liqueur”.

For the remaining 1% of cocktails, it is a problem.

At least, with “Cherry Brandy”, you can be fairly certain that when “Cherry Brandy” is written, the author means Cherry Liqueur, as there is a common name, “Kirsch” or “Kirschwasser”, which is usually used in cocktail recipes calling for Cherry Eau-de-vie.

In the case of Apricot Eau-de-Vie, this is not the case. We’ve only got “Apricot Brandy” for either substance.

About the only advice I can give you is to familiarize yourself with the “families” of drinks.

In this case, make a few “Coolers”.

What is in most of the drinks called “Coolers”?

The “Shady Grove Cooler”, for example: 2 oz Gin; Juice 1/2 Lemon; 1/2 Tablespoon of Sugar; Shake and strain into a tall glass. Fill with Ginger Beer.

With the sweetener from the Ginger beer and the 1/2 Tablespoon of Sugar, this is a fairly rich drink.

Would a very dry drink made of half gin and half Eau-de-Vie with only the sweetener from “2 Dashes Grenadine” make sense in the same class of drinks as the Shady Grove Cooler? Would it be any good?

Remember, you’re building this drink into a 14 oz Collins glass with “1 lump of ice” and filling it with only chilled soda.

As a practical exercise, invest in some of Destillerie Purkhart’s “Blume Marillen” and make the drink this way:

Sea Breeze Cooler?
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Grenadine
1 oz Apricot Eau-de-Vie
1 oz Dry Gin
1 Lump of ice.
Use long tumbler and fill with soda Water. 2 sprigs fresh mint on top.

Try it and have a few friends try it. What reaction do you get?

Invest in a bottle of Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot and make the drink this way:

Sea Breeze Cooler?
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Grenadine
1 oz Apricot Liqueur
1 oz Dry Gin
1 Lump of ice.
Use long tumbler and fill with soda Water. 2 sprigs fresh mint on top.

What reaction do you get?

Given your new knowledge of the “Cooler” category, which drink makes more sense?

7 thoughts on “Apricot “Brandy”

  1. Interesting post. Thanks, Erik.

    I do wonder what might have been stocked in bars around the turn of the century. Perhaps fruit was abundant and perishable, and therefore an eau-de-vie could have been reasonably priced and available? Or could it be that these historic fruit “brandies” were something in between today’s unsweetened eau-de-vie and fruit liqueurs made from neutral spirits, juice, flavors, and a tooth-rotting amount of sugar?

    It’s not uncommon in your stomp for you to use Blume Marillen for apricot brandy. Perhaps you are just correcting for an out-of-style overly sweet drink. Or could it be that the original recipe wasn’t made with a liqueur like today’s Apry or Orchard Apricot?

    As for Kirsch, I think it is a more complex than a dry fruit eau-de-vie, given that it is made with the pits, and their funk certainly comes through.

    And could it be that some of these fruit “brandies” were aged to mellow them — especially since they would need to be stored from harvest time through to when they were used.

    I have no evidence that any of this is correct; I just wondering….

    • Yes, I have often used Blume Marillen when “Apricot Brandy” is called for, if it seems like the cocktail will be more palatable with it instead of Apricot Liqueur.

      David Wondrich has mentioned in the past that he thinks the Hop Toad, properly made should be made with Apricot Eau-de-Vie, even though it makes for a very tart drink.

      I once had a conversation about Orange Curacao with someone who, at the time, was working for Bols. He said he had tasted some very old samples the company had archived and the big difference was that the vintage samples were far sweeter than what modern consumers would stand for. Which sort of explains why Curacao was so often called for in dashes in old cocktails.

      A lot of old cocktail books have glossaries of ingredients at the back. Any time these glossaries talk about “Apricot Brandy” they talk about it as a liqueur, not an Eau-de-Vie.

    • Not to be too dismissive, there are two regions which traditionally make Apricot Eau-de-Vie.

      In Hungary, you will find Barack Palinka, a pretty rough and ready Apricot Eau-de-Vie. Even though it isn’t widely available, this is probably the most available. Zwack still produces one. More along the lines of a fiery grappa, than a fine Eau-de-Vie.

      In the Wachau region of Austria, the products like the Blumme Marillen are available. I do not think, prior to Alpenz bringing this in to the US relatively recently, that these Apricot Eau-de-Vie were commercially exported to any extent.

  2. Thanks for all the helpful info! Erik, what drinks do you think require the use of apricot eau-de-vie? The Georgia Mint Julep in Ted Haigh’s “Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails” calls for real peach brandy, and is a fantastic julep when made with the Finger Lakes Distilling peach brandy, which is an eau-de-vie. I don’t have a bottle of apricot eau-de-vie at present, so I tend to sub in the FLD peach brandy. (I am not a bartender, just an enthusiastic home mixologist, so I don’t have access to a full bar.)

    FLD’s blog has some interesting info on peach brandy in George Washington’s Day: http://fingerlakesdistilling.blogspot.com/2010/10/making-george-proud.html. I get the sense it was available to the wealthy, and generally sipped, not used in cocktails. (By the way, I’m not affiliated with FLD, I’m just a supporter of locally distilled spirits.)

    • Yeah, I love a good fruit brandy too. Old World Spirits, on the West Coast, makes several fantastic examples, including an aged peach eau-de-vie. Great in a Julep or cocktail.

      While I suspect most 20th Century cocktails are actually calling for Apricot Liqueur, it never hurts to try it with Eau-de-vie, without changing the ratios. Just see which you prefer.

      Authenticity is sometimes overrated.

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