In a variation on the Vieux Carré, Meadowood bartender Sam Levy began with the idea of using apple brandy instead of cognac. With the help of Stillwater Spirits, he combined an apple mash with native yeast and fresh apples to distill his own eau de vie, which was then aged in American oak. When applied to his Vieux Carré, Levy infused the eau de vie with winter-sturdy Asian pears and quince from Meadowood’s Napa Valley grounds along with spicebush, vanilla, nutmeg and orange. The resulting infusion is then mixed with rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and Amaro Nonino, which substitutes for Bénédictine. A healthy dose of Peychaud’s bitters plus the traditional rinse of absinthe complete the saffron-hued cocktail, which is spilled over a large rock and garnished with an orange peel. Built on the foundation of a classic recipe, Levy’s Vieux Carré strays from the consistency of standard spirits and specs, instead molding the drink’s architecture and ethos to directly reflect Napa Valley’s winter harvest this year. The same recipe will be different in winters to come depending on the apple variety, the quince yield, the spicebush availability and even the orange peel.
Meadowood’s Vieux Carré
Sam Levy, The Restaurant at Meadowood | Napa Valley, CA
- 1 ounce quince & asian pear brandy
- 1 ounce rye (preferably Michter's Single Barrel)
- 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth (preferably Cocchi Vermouth di Torino)
- 1/4 ounce Amaro Nonino
- 2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
- 1 dash absinthe (preferably Kubler)
Garnish: orange peel
- Rinse a rocks glass with absinthe, add a large ice cube and set aside.
- In a mixing glass, add all ingredients, add ice and stir.
- Strain into the rocks glass over the large ice cube.
- Garnish with an orange peel.