After a hard day toiling in the orchard or the sugar bush, a man needs a drink. A woman, too. I mean, yes, a man might need a woman, it's true, and a woman might need a drink. And a man. Or a fish. And a bicycle....as that old saying used to go, as you might remember.
Anyway, sometimes a man or a woman might need a drink, and fortunately, the land provides. I haven't quite settled on a name for this drink, but I'm leaning toward "Highway 64 Revisited." Wisconsin state highway 64 runs east and west across the state, from Hudson to Green Bay. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources's reckoning, it divides the state into northern and southern sectors (according to my sense of things, too). It takes me to some of my favorite hunting grounds, and a number of fine trout waters.
More significantly, for our purposes here, it runs just south of Bide-A-Wee, which produces the maple syrup and apple cider that flavor the drink, and through New Richmond, where is made the 45th Parallel vodka that gives it its guts. This is good stuff, this Badger State vodka. I used to be of the opinion that "vodka is vodka," but I've had to admit that that was a benighted view. Now, I don't think vodkas are ever going to have the character or variety of single malt scotch, but I've come to recognize that there are significant differences in vodkas, and to my taste 45th Parallel is among the best. It's clean, crisp, and slightly sweet, slightly viscous on the tongue even when not iced. Just as important as what qualities it has is the one it lacks--that sinus-scorching cleaning fluid aroma often found in lesser vodkas. I don't mean to seem to damn with faint praise, not at all--when I want to sip iced vodka neat with my trout caviar on Tata's rye rounds, this will be the one.
Enough exposition, here's the drink:
Highway 64 Revisited
for each drink
2 ounces 45th Parallel vodka
2 Tbsp unfiltered fresh apple cider
1 tsp pure maple syrup
1 capful dry vermouth (I like Martini & Rossi)
1 sprig fresh thyme (optional but very nice)
Put some cracked ice in a martini shaker. Add all above. Shake or stir? Well, I kind of swirl, let sit a few seconds, swirl again. That's more like stirred, I reckon. I should try it shaken. Maybe tonight. Strain into a martini glass. I like to let a few shards of ice drift into the drink. Garnish superfluously with a slice of pickled crab apple, if you have it, or a wedge of fresh apple, or a maple leaf, whatever makes you happy. Sip and savor.
For added enjoyment and sophistication put on our friend Will Agar's wonderful classical guitar CD, Suenos Ibericos, definitely one of our musical highlights of 2009. Contact Will at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to purchase a copy. Highly recommended.
Text and photos copyright 2009 by Brett Laidlaw