The relationships that we have with books can be just plain weird. I mean, according to the Telegraph, more than 60 percent of people have lied about reading classic novels. What? Why? To look cool and smart? That is so not the case in my particular circle. If I could TELL you how many times I’ve been mocked for reading Wilkie Collins… And then there are the books we believe that we love, but we don’t. Usually children’s lit. I’m not alone in this I think. There are these stories that you loved when you were little, and you carry a torch for them for years, and then—in some ill-advised moment—you go back to them, and are just TREMENDOUSLY disappointed.
THIS is something I lie about. You don’t go back and admit that that great book you loved and have bought for every newborn kid because you’re that person that only gives books to kids (because of course) is actually not a very good book at all. Nope. I’m going to admit, for a long time I secretly thought that The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was probably one of those books. It’s an old-timey American classic—a very specifically autumn classic—and because I love all things autumn and because the countless adaptations have always been fun, I was prepared to defend my love for it. But secretly, in my heart of hearts? I was pretty sure the book would prove to be pretty dull given a re-read.
And so for years I put it off. I have a few copies of it because I love leather spines and musty pages and what better for that than Washington Irving? Also, there’s an Arthur Rackham illustrated edition, and given my obsession for that particular Victorian, I have that copy as well. These books are carefully displayed but rarely handled, until a recent excursion into the western wilds of Massachusetts prompted me to throw a copy into my luggage for late-night, cider-accompanied reading.
What I discovered was pretty exciting. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow isn’t just good, it’s great. The story really is both funny and thrilling, and the writing is superb. Take this initial description of Ichabod Crane.
“He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock perched upon his spindle neck to tell which way the wind blew. To see him striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering about him, one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth, or some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield.”
Some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield. That’s just brilliant. It turned out, in fact, that the Legend of Sleepy Hollow was actually the perfect American autumn read, and so I felt it needed the perfect American autumn drink. That’s where apple brandy comes in.
While there are quite a few apple brandies out there now to choose from, this household’s favorite has always been the original, Laird’s, a company that’s been selling the Applejack and apple brandies since 1780. I mean, hell, it’s possible Irving himself drank the stuff. I wanted a drink that was strong, that would hold up against Hessian phantoms, that would be stronger, frankly, than Ichabod Crane, who like most Gothic protagonists, was an impressively wimpy man.
And so, to make a cocktail worthy of Tarrytown, the village that lays claim to Sleepy Hollow—one that is known for its boozy inhabitants—I paired the apple brandy with some rye and chartreuse to make the classic Diamondback cocktail.In a happy twist of fate, I was recently gifted some preserved crab apples. They made the perfect garnish, and the delicious spiced juice may have made it into the cocktail as well.
1 1/2 ounces rye
3/4 ounce apple brandy
3/4 ounce chartreuse
dash of juice from preserved crab apples
two crab apples for garnish
Add all the liquids to an ice-filled cocktail glass. Stir. Strain into a chilled rocks glass, garnish with crab apples. Enjoy!