The Colt's Neck is a light, refreshing, and nuanced apple brandy cocktail that's great any time of year but especially well-suited to autumn. Here's how to make it.
Why we love this recipe
We're lucky to live just a few miles from the Colts Neck, NJ home of Laird's apple brandy. That and an open bottle of Cardamaro vino amaro (which has a looooong neck) spurred the creation of The Colt's Neck, a highball apple brandy cocktail with ginger beer, Cardamaro, and fresh lemon juice.
I don't always gravitate to highball cocktails (though a stiff gin and tonic is an OG favorite). But when a highball has this much going on, it's hard not to give it a second look.
- The backbone of the Colt's Neck is strong but smooth apple brandy.
- Cardamaro adds all manner of subtle goodness, from sweetness to pleasant bitterness to a gentle vegetal quality.
- Fresh lemon juice takes the edge off the sweetness.
- And ginger beer speaks assertively for itself.
What you'll need
Here's a glance at the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe.
- Buying apple brandy can be a bit confusing, and you can learn a little more about it in the FAQ section below. Make this cocktail with a true apple brandy/applejack like the one pictured, rather than a blended version.
- Cardamaro vino amaro is sometimes called a gentler cousin of Cynar. You can learn more about it in the FAQ section below.
- There's no substitute for freshly squeezed lemon juice, which adds brightness and balance to this drink.
- Ginger beer is a nonalcoholic, ginger-flavored soft drink. It provides fizz, lightness, and tons of flavor to the Colt's Neck.
- A simple lemon twist is all you need to garnish.
How to make it
As with all highballs, making a Colt's Neck apple brandy cocktail is straightforward. You don't even need a separate mixing glass. Here's an overview of what you'll do. You can see all the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.
- Fill a highball glass halfway with ice.
- Pour in apple brandy, cardamaro, and lemon juice.
- Give it a gentle stir. Top with ginger beer.
- Garnish with a lemon twist and serve. That's it!
Expert tips and FAQs
Applejack was hugely popular in colonial America, long before even rye and bourbon came on the scene. Laird & Company has been making applejack (practically right in our backyard) since 1698.
There's a reason you might not be exactly sure how to define applejack, and it's because things have changed a bit over time. Historically, applejack was 100 percent apple brandy. And legally that's still the case. But now some versions are blended products. Those are sold under the name blended applejack (though not always obviously so).
Laird & Company sells both Straight Applejack, an 86 proof 100% apple brandy that's made in the old tradition — which I would recommend, and blended Applejack, an 80 proof product that's 35% apple brandy and 65% neutral spirits.
You'll find lots of other brands, too, of various proofs and descriptions.
Cardamaro is an Italian vino amaro — a wine-based amaro. It has a relatively low alcohol content at 17% ABV and is great to sip on its own or as a cocktail ingredient. Cardamaro is made from cardoon and blessed thistle, which are relatives of the artichoke, and it’s often called a gentler cousin of Cynar.
Learn more in this post.
For sure. To make eight drinks, combine in a pitcher up to three hours before serving time: 2 cups apple brandy, 2 cups Cardamaro, and 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice. Cover and chill. At serving time, you can either add 4 cups ginger beer to the pitcher or divide the contents of the pitcher among ice-filled highball glasses and top each with ginger four ounces ginger beer. Garnish each glass with a lemon twist and serve.
More favorite cocktails using these ingredients
- 2 ounces (60 ml) apple brandy
- 2 ounces (60 ml) Cardamaro
- 1 ounce (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 ounces (120 ml) ginger beer
- Lemon twist, to garnish
- Fill a highball glass halfway with ice.
- Pour in apple brandy, Cardamaro, and lemon juice.
- Give it a gentle stir with a bar spoon.
- Top with the ginger beer.
- Garnish with the lemon twist and serve.
- If you like, you can batch this drink for a party. To make eight drinks, combine in a pitcher up to three hours before serving time: 2 cups apple brandy, 2 cups Cardamaro, and 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice. Cover and chill. At serving time, you can either add 4 cups ginger beer to the pitcher or divide the contents of the pitcher among ice-filled highball glasses and top each with ginger four ounces ginger beer. Garnish each glass with a lemon twist and serve.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 200