To live in a world of everlasting Septembers and Octobers sounds enchanting, does it not? To wake up each day to the golden rustling of leaves and spiced scent in the air. Perpetual pumpkin carving and apple picking, bubbling pastries hot from the oven, and an ever present crisp chill warranting cozy clothing. The liminal enchantment of autumn’s allure is deliciously tempting, but the charm of its seasonality is precisely what makes it so special.
To have that all the time—the anticipation of the landscape’s shifting hues, the cool breeze countering the sun’s rays, the harvest at season’s end when winter creeps her frostbitten fingers along summer’s fading vines—would lessen autumn’s charm and wonder.
There is magic to the wheel of the year and each cycle as it shifts through our bodies and the world around us. When we have access to something whenever we want it, it loses some of its sparkle. It becomes marked with the tarnish of the ordinary. I relish the darkening of the year, when we turn inward, pulling what we can from the ground into cellars and cupboards. Where the land itself encourages a breath to slow down and reflect on a year of growth both internally and externally. Even in urban environments, where the land may not speak to us directly and we may not see the changes so intimately, we are still bound by these cycles.
I think there is still something to be said for taking a memento from the season with us even as we shift beyond the golden halls of autumn’s court. So how do we capture a bit of its essence? One of my favorite ways to experience the sensual delight of a moment, feeling, story, or event is to craft a flavorful blend that, with every draught, can bring me back to a time and place I think is worth remembering. It is a sensuous spell, a moment in a bottle you can relive until your brew has been gobbled up.
Through my work as Old Growth Alchemy, I bottle up such stories with my teas and bitters, but here I want to share with you a delightful and whimsical liqueur that captures something of autumn’s charm. With a focus on warmth, sweetness, and those glowing afternoons in the apple orchards, this recipe is an invitation to play with the spirit of the season. While this recipe uses one of my own tea blends, you can absolutely substitute your own favorite spiced blend to customize it specifically to your tastes.
Sip as a nightcap after a meal of abundance and good cheer, and take this draught like a lantern torch into the night to let its sweetness guide you to a place of comfort and warmth. Safe journeys, dear friends.
2 tablespoons The Huskin’ Bee tea (or spiced tea of your choice)
1 vanilla bean
1 small pinch of saffron
3 dried figs, split in half
3 apples, peels only
1 cup honey, local if possible
1 cup water
2 tablespoons maple syrup, local if possible
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1½ cups brandy
2 cups vodka
½ cup strong brewed tea (The Huskin’ Bee or blend of your choice, but same as previously used)
Brew your tea syrup:
Combine tea, vanilla bean, saffron, figs, apple peels, honey, water, and maple syrup in a saucepan and simmer for 6 minutes. Cool completely in your pan.
Mix in your spirits:
Take your cooled tea syrup mixture and pour into a large jar with your brandy and vodka and let it infuse for three days in a cool and shaded place. Shake intermittently during the three days.
Decant and age:
In a separate vessel, brew ½ cup of very strong tea, let cool completely, and strain out solids. Strain the solids from your infused spirits, pour into a fresh clean vessel, and add in the strained cooled tea. Age for at minimum a month in a cool dark place. The longer you let your liqueur sit, the more the alcohol burn of the spirits will mellow.
And what of this blend? You wish to know something of the charm before brewing, I suspect. Fear not.
Reminiscent of near dusk in an orchard when the last rays of sun warm your face and the cool breeze picks up the sweet aroma of apples crushed underfoot. It is the comfort of a rough spun blanket while you sit carving pumpkins and pressing cider as the last leaves rustle on barren branches in the distance. The sweet richness of damp earth in a forest of fallen pine needles beneath elder growths of trees. Dripping honey from the comb flowing over freshly baked spiced pastry. The last warm breeze before the year turns cold.
Slightly sharp when young and the alcohol hasn’t quite fully mellowed but smooth as silk with age. Lush spices warm the blood and flush the apples of your cheek to provide an extra layer of warmth against chilled evenings and oncoming frost. The concentrated bite of an apple that has slightly wrinkled with age but is no less delicious for the time spent in the cellar. Comforting and familiar with the kiss of floral honey that lingers on the tongue, like the last golden leaves on the branches after the frost comes and the nights lengthen into winter’s dusk.