First, I implore you to forget everything you think you know about an Appletini.
To start, this drink is not green. You will not need to purchase a bottle largely composed of high fructose corn syrup, dyed with just the right amounts of “Yellow 5” and “Blue 1” to evoke the shade of Slimer from the Ghostbusters. This is a fresh take on the cocktail featuring fresh ingredients—including fresh apples!
Now, when a drink has “apple” in the name, I expect there to be a lot of apple flavor, and this Appletini does not disappoint. With three expressions of apple: apple juice, apple brandy, and tart apple syrup, you’ve got an orchard in your glass.
To balance the sweetness of the drink out and to call back—ever so slightly—to that classic “sour apple” flavor, lemon juice and tart apples give a few lip-puckering notes as well.
With fresh apples in season, the best time to enjoy this cocktail would be during the fall, when you can pluck those apples from the tree. However, if that’s not an option, enjoy this cocktail before dinner any night of the year.
What's an Appletini?
Unlike many classic cocktails with hazy origin stories, the Appletini’s history is pretty straightforward. Created in the mid-1990’s in Los Angeles at the restaurant Lola’s, bartender Adam Karsten created the Appletini as a vehicle for DeKuyper’s Sour Apple schnapps.
This sweet, electric green cocktail was the catalyst for the barrage of ‘Tini drinks the 90s were so well known for. If a drink verged on sickly sweet, and came in an oversized Martini glass, it went on the menu. Thankfully we’ve reigned this trend in with the cocktail Renaissance of the early aughts. However, we can look back on those distant recipes and tweak them for modern tastes, and the Appletini is a great candidate for an update.
This fresh take on an Appletini has come a long way from its origin, but when apples are in season, it’s a great way to savor those flavors in the glass. It’s not overly sweet, carries the scent of fresh apples, and has a dry, mildly lip-puckering tartness.
What's in an Appletini?
This fresh take on the Appletini combines vodka, apple juice, apple bandy, lemon juice, and a homemade tart apple syrup. Don’t worry too much about the vodka you’re using as you’re looking for something neutral to mix in with all the ingredients (maybe save the top shelf for a Vodka Martini).
For the tart apple syrup, and to achieve that lip-puckering tartness look for:
- Granny Smith apples
- Pink Lady
We’re looking to mimic that acidic bite in sour apple for this take on the classic drink, but without using anything synthetic like the original. These types of apples have a higher level of malic acid in them which makes them the natural choice for the syrup than sweeter varieties.
Tips and Tricks for Making an Appletini
Put away that peeler and taste those apples! Here are a few tips and tricks for perfecting this fresh take on the Appletini.
- When choosing an apple juice, look for fresh or “not from concentrate.” Fresh apple juice will impart a cleaner apple taste to your drink.
- Taste your apples! If you get an out of season, tasteless apple, it’s not going to impart any apple flavor into your syrup. So, make sure you’re using something flavorful!
- Calvados apple brandy is specified in the recipe, however if that is not available, you can substitute another apple brandy like Laird’s or even Applejack.
Appletini Garnish Options
No fancy garnishes are required here, but an apple sliver on the rim of the glass or an apple ring floating on top of the drink are both beautiful and tasty options. I also enjoy a dehydrated apple ring for cocktail garnishes.
Apple Martini Glassware
The 1990s really drove home the idea that any drink ending in -TINI should be served in an oversized Martini glass. But that glass will be much too large for this cocktail. (Use that glass for shrimp cocktails instead.)
Here, you can use a smaller 6-ounce Martini or “V” shaped cocktail glass, or my preferred glass: a coupe.
More Marvelous Martini Recipes
This recipe makes one cup of tart apple syrup. You can keep the leftovers in the refrigerator for up to two weeks in an airtight container.
- For the tart apple syrup
- 3 tart apples such as Granny Smith, McIntosh, or Pink lady
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- For the cocktail
- 1 ounce vodka
- 1 ounce apple juice
- 1/2 ounce Calvados apple brandy
- 3/4 ounce tart apple syrup
- 1 ounce lemon juice
- For garnish
- Apple slice
Prep the apples:
Core and roughly chop the washed apples.
Make the tart apple syrup:
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the apples, water, and sugar. Bring the apple mixture to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer until the apples are tender but not falling apart, 15 to 20 minutes.
Cool the tart apple syrup:
Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Strain the tart apple syrup:
Strain solids through a fine mesh strainer into an airtight container. Either use immediately in your cocktail or refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the cocktail and serve:
To make the cocktail, combine vodka, Calvados apple brandy, 3/4 ounce tart apple syrup, and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker 2/3 filled with ice.
Shake for 20 seconds until cold to the touch, then strain into a cocktail coupe or small Martini glass. Garnish with an apple slice. Serve.