Beware the Hag With the Poisoned Apple


Welcome to the first of our new Alphatini series where we take a look at 26 varieties of the classic martini and come up with the best possible version of each, maybe even creating some new ones on the way.


A is for Apple

If we, in our gin-soaked haze, remember nothing else from those early learning years it’s that A is indeed for apple. That big, red, juicy fruit purported to keep the doctor away with one a day, win us extra points with the teacher and even find the first initial of our true love in it’s peel. Whether piled high in a pie, cooked down to sauce or juiced for convenience we’ve all had some sort of experience with apples in our life.

And while apples come in reds, greens, yellows and combinations thereof, exactly when did they become neon-hued and sour? While we may have become used to the chartreuse cocktail billed as an Appletini, it resembles an alcoholic candy more than what some believe the serpent tempted Eve with.

Let’s see if we can’t come up with something better, shall we?

Surveying the Orchard

Taking a quick stroll through bartending guides and web recipe repositories, the Appletini always seems to have a vodka base (sometimes a flavored vodka but often plain). The other main ingredient is apple schnapps–usually the sour sort like DeKuypers Apple Pucker. It’s not a bad ingredient, really, but I’d like to at least see a little apple juice in my apple martini (I know, shocking), not just booze. What I certainly don’t need is sour mix, citrus soda or cranberry juice mucking around my glass. They’re all find ingredients in their own right (well, except the sour mix–make your own!), just not what we really need here.

What could we add instead? Obvious would be apple juice or you could go even more direct with some apple puree. If you want to invoke the feel of a warm apple pie some vanilla and cinnamon would not go amiss (hello, vanilla vodka and maybe some cinnamon schnapps or syrup), even some condensed milk shaken in for that a la mode vibe. Or you could go a little classier with some Calvados (apple brandy) and a cinnamon stick for a cider-like cocktail.

In Search Of…

Caramel Apple Spice MartiniOnce, in a fairly decent chain restaurant, late one night after a holiday concert, I was intrigued enough to order a Caramel Apple Martini expecting something I wanted to just curl up in and take a nap. Instead what was brought to me was thin-tasting, bitter and gritty from the powdered cinnamon around the rim. The only thing it had in common with a real caramel apple was that it was sticky.

It’s so sad when a drink doesn’t live up to the menu’s hype.

Enter my solution: a dreamy, creamy caramel apple flavor with just a hint of spice. It’s definitely a dessert drink and even with less than 2 oz alcohol in there it’s pretty potent (the sugary ones always are). Sip it slowly and savor it.

Caramel Apple Spice Martini

1 1/4 oz Vanilla Vodka
1 1/4 oz Apple Juice
1/2 oz Caramel Sauce
1/4 oz Cinnamon Schnapps
Garnish: cinnamon-demerara sugar, apple slice, cinnamon stick

Combine the vodka, juice, caramel sauce and schnapps in a cocktail shaker over ice. Give it a good, long shake to toss the caramel sauce around and strain into a chilled cocktail glass rimmed with cinnamon-demerara sugar. Garnish with a slice of apple and a cinnamon stick.

The “secret” is to use a caramel sauce and not a syrup–the syrup will give a thinner mouth-feel and can have a very chemical edge to it. And yes, I mean sauce like you’d use for ice cream topping. When you mix the cinnamon sugar, go easy on the cinnamon–it really doesn’t take more than a sprinkle in a quarter cup of sugar (I prefer demerara for the natural color and large crystals) to get the point across without any grittiness.

For an extra treat, try sipping the drink through the cinnamon stick!

Summertime Ice Cream Treat: Magnum Ice Cream Bars


It’s Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial beginning of summer–what better time to break out the ice cream makers, scoops, dishes and toppings.

But wait, maybe you’re pressed for time or just not into complicated frozen desserts. So you head to the ice cream section of your local grocery store and maybe, just maybe, you see something different that catches your eye.

Magnum Double Chocolate Ice Cream BarsMagnum ice cream bars have recently hit the American market and the premium perks don’t end at the snazzy packaging. These bars feature vanilla bean or chocolate ice creams dipped in rich Belgian chocolate. Some (like the Magnum Almond) come studded with nuts while others (Magnum Double Chocolate and Magnum Double Caramel) feature sauces in between the ice cream and chocolate.

But how do they taste?

I was offered a coupon for a free box of Magnum ice cream bars and went, first, for the Double Chocolate–how can you go wrong with more chocolate?

What we have here, folks, is chocolate ice cream with a thin coating of chocolate on it, a layer of chocolate syrup/sauce and the outer layer of Belgian milk chocolate. Being a bookkeeper I can tell you that that’s 4 chocolates, not 2, but I guess Quadruple Chocolate doesn’t roll off the tongue the way Double Chocolate does, so we’ll let that slide.

A cross-section of a Magnum Double Chocolate ice cream barAt first bite I was loving the chocolate upon chocolate flavors but, as Todd pointed out (yes, I shared), it was almost chocolate overload the further you got into it. I also found out that my co-tester is not a big fan of chocolate ice cream (3.5 years together and there’s still new things to learn!), but even so he liked them okay.

With that in mind, though, I picked up two more flavors on this week’s shopping trip: Magnum Classic and Magnum Double Caramel.

In the Classic variety, the Belgian chocolate really gets a chance to shine compared to the vanilla bean ice cream–which was pretty tasty itself–and tastes really luxurious. I’ve had richer ice creams before, but they were usually small batch chef-made varieties, so take what you will from that.

The Double Caramel, however, left us a little wanting. The caramel was lost in the shuffle of chocolate and vanilla bean and what you did get it of it was sharp and unpleasant instead of rich and creamy. Of the three versions we’ve tried I think we’ll be sticking to the Classic.

Aside from the ice cream bars themselves, packaging can either add to or take away from the experience. (Prime example? Apple products–hello pretty!) In this case Magnum does a great job at enhancing their product. Working for a printing company for 15+ years I tend to notice finishing details and know there’s a reason for most boxes having square corners: they’re natural, easy and cheap. Rounded edges require die cutting and specialty folding set-ups–that’s a step many manufacturers aren’t going to take.

The bars, themselves, are wrapped in printed gold foil sleeves; another step up from the waxed paper in most ice cream bars. Usually I find gold packaging tacky, but Magnum hits a nice balance between garish and classy. Even the sticks are branded and are a little different from your average popsicle-stick.

At 3.28 for a package of three they’re not that expensive ($1.09ish per bar) but they’re not the value that some other brands offer. It’s nice for a treat or to satisfy a craving, but I don’t think it’s destined to become a freezer staple for our home.


As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a coupon for one box of Magnum ice cream bars. All opinions and observations are my own.