Balance is crucial to a good cocktail, and the Kentucky Belle is balanced as hell. Sweet, warm, Kentucky bourbon; tart crabapples; spicy, wild ginger ale; and (if you’re so inclined) a pickled crabapple garnish.
All you really need is bourbon, crabapples, and ginger ale. Store bought ginger ale is fine, as are any of the ginger beers or hard ginger ales currently on the market. (I’ll post my wild ginger ale recipe here soon.)
To Infuse the Bourbon
Soften the crabapples in advance to break down the cellular structure of the fruit. You can either freeze the crabapples overnight, then thaw them, or, you can microwave the fruit until it’s soft enough to mash with your fingers. This lets the alcohol extract the crabapple flavor more quickly.
Combine three cups of softened crabapples with 750 ml. of 100 proof bourbon (save the bottle) in a container with a tight fitting lid. If you have spicebush berries, add two tablespoons of dried, coarsely ground berries. If you don’t have spicebush, you can substitute one tablespoon each of coarsely ground black pepper and allspice. Close the container and shake it around.
Let the mixture sit for two weeks, swirling it once a day or whenever you remember. Strain the liquid through a jelly bag or cheesecloth, and throw away the solids. Strain the liquid one more time through a coffee filter or a yogurt strainer, to get a clear infusion. Pour the flavored bourbon back into its original bottle for storage.
To Make The Kentucky Belle Cocktail
Pour two ounces of crabapple infused bourbon into a shaker full of ice, and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a coupe or martini glass, and add two ounces of ginger ale, hard ginger ale, or ginger beer. Garnish with a spiced crabapple.
These proportions give you a mix of spirit, sweet, and sour, but your perfectly balanced cocktail may be different from mine. There’s only one way to find out. That’s right, make yourself a drink!