I ♥ apples, but it's pretty difficult to find a drink that incorporates the fruit well. (In other words, doesn't make it taste like a disgusting Jolly Rancher-infused swill of sugar.)
So it's a bit of a surprise that I've managed to find one now, in the dead of winter, and at Riptide by the Bay in Fells Point, of all places. Actually, the laid-back bar, known more for crab deals in the summer, has a pretty nice cocktail program going on. And its Hot Spiked Homemade Apple Cider ranks high on the list.
"We incorporate fresh ingredients to create twists on classic cocktails … our menu changes with the seasons giving our guests the luxury of enjoying warm and cozy beverages in the harsh, winter months or light and refreshing cocktails to cool you down when it's hot and humid," said Riptide bartender Amber Groves. She noted that their cider is extremely popular. ("Everybody loves it!")
I'm not sure if that's because it incorporates a wintertime trifecta of warming booze-cognac, whiskey and rum or because it incorporates a lot of booze, period. Either way, it's balanced with just what you'd expect: fresh-squeezed apple juice, diced apples, cinnamon and nutmeg. What I especially like here is that Riptide didn't just dump store-bought apple cider into a glass. If it had, this would have turned out to be an overly acidic, slow burn of a drink. Instead, it's a lighter take on a traditional recipe.
Even better? It's half-price during happy hour. In fact, all of Riptide's specialty cocktails are. That's enough to almost make me wish winter — and its seasonal menu — wouldn't end. Almost.
How to Make Hot Spiked Homemade Apple Cider
3 parts fresh-squeezed apple juice
1 part Hennessy
1 part Jim Beam
1 part Myers' dark rum
Heat apple juice, stirring in liquors; spice with cinnamon and nutmeg, add diced apples. Garnish with an apple slice and serve in an Irish coffee glass.
Where to get Hot Spiked Homemade Apple Cider
Riptide by the Bay
1718 Thames St., Fells Point
$6 reg./$3 4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday