Stone Fence Cocktail Competition

The Mitten is great cider for drinking but not a lot of folks outside of the industry know how well it works as an ingredient for mixologists. In fact, it's got everything a mixologist is looking for in cocktails: acid, sweetness, complexity—and bourbon. To showcase The Mitten in mixology, we hosted a second annual mixology competition in Chicago at the Chicago Athletic Assocation on Jan. 10, 2016.

This event showcased some of Chicago's greatest bartenders competing with their take on a classic cider-based cocktail: the Stone Fence. This year’s mixologists were from Green Street Smoked Meats, La Sirena Clandestina, Billy Sunday, Queen Mary, Longman & Eagle, The Hideout, Union League Club of Chicago, Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar, and Ceres Table.

While everyone crafted an excellent cocktail, we did pick one winner: Mae Governale from Hideout Riverwalk. She won a trip to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail—one of the best mixology conferences in the country. Our People's Choice Winner, Becki Scholl of Green Street Smoked Meats, won a visit at Virtue Farm for a tour and dinner with our chef, Missy Corey.

See some other cocktail entries and recipes from the bartenders who made them:

“Smokey Stone Fence”
Becki Scholl, Green Street Smoked Meats

I decided on a little bit of a take on a French 75, traditionally made with gin, champagne and lemon juice. Here I use a combination of cider and bourbon instead. I love bourbon, and since The Mitten is a bourbon barrel-aged cider, it was the perfect spirit to play with. J. Rieger & Co. is a pre-prohibition Kansas City whiskey with sherry in it, making it strong, like a Stone Fence should be. I add to that the lemon juice that is classic to a French 75. Finally, since I work at Green Street Smoked Meats, I have access to a smoker. For this cocktail, I made some some smoked black cardamom and smoked cherries that I also quick-brandied. All together they are some powerful flavors, but I think they play well with the bourbon barrel-aged cider, accenting it without covering it up. 

1.5 oz J. Rieger's Kansas City Whiskey
.5 oz black cardamom syrup
.5 oz lemon juice
3 oz. The Mitten
smoked and brandied cherry garnish

“Revolutionary Stone Fence”
Chad Hauge, Longman & Eagle

My Stone Fence-inspired cocktail utilizes two local ingredients: Rhine Hall Apple Brandy (also called Apple Eau de Vie or Schnapps), made in Chicago from southwestern Michigan apples; and Few Spirits Rye Whiskey, crafted in Evanston, IL. Both are gritty and grain-forward, and I think that style is a little more true to those that would have been made in that revolutionary era. To these spirits I added Normandy apple cider vinegar, for a little sour punch, which I balance with house-made charred cinnamon caramel syrup. Then I top it off with the The Mitten cider and a little lemon. It makes for an all around spicy, sweet and sour revolutionary drink. 

In a shaker combine: 
.75 oz Koval Single Barrel Rye
.75 oz Rhine Hall Apple Brandy
.75 oz Charred Cinnamon Caramel* 
.25 oz Normandy Apple Cider Vinegar
.25 oz Lemon Juice
Shake, double strain into an Old Fashioned glass with ice cubes. Top with 2 oz. Virtue The Mitten. Microplane the end of a cinnamon stick over the drink, insert a rosemary sprig into the other end of the cinnamon stick, and insert this into the drink. 

*Charred cinnamon caramel recipe (makes 12 portions):
In a large pot add 6 oz. sugar to 1 oz. water, stir to combine. Turn heat to high. While solution is boiling, in a metal bowl lightly crush 6 cinnamon sticks. Char the crushed cinnamon using a kitchen blowtorch or a long lighter. Toss and char again. The solution on the stove should be beginning to burn and turn brown. When you first see it smoke, carefully add 6 oz. of water. (Caution: this addition will produce steam and bubbling, and could burn you.) Toss the charred cinnamon sticks in the new solution and bring it back to a boil. Stir and reduce heat to a simmer. Strain into a new container after 15 minutes. Let cool before use.

“Stone Fence with The Mitten Cider”
Mony Bunni, Queen Mary 

When I drink cider I like it funky, earthy, and dry. For cocktails made with cider I want to be able to control my sweetness with my syrups. I like The Mitten for how dry it is. It also means that even if you add more or less sweetness than you want, the integrity of the drink is maintained. Then I adjust the sweetness with my homemade cranberry apple syrup. 
1 oz. El Dorado
.5 oz. Dolin
.5 oz. Salers
1 oz. cranberry cinnamon syrup
.75 oz. lemon juice
2 dashes of Peychaud's 

“Virtue Stone Fence”
Graham Hogan, Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar

I hadn't tried this year's The Mitten until Virtue dropped off a bottle for me and I found it to be delightful. It's really straight-forward, simple deliciousness with some funk and Brett from the bourbon barrel so I didn't want to mask it with anything too heavy. I experimented with Jamaican rum, white whisky and all sorts of other spirits but found that everything was killing the subtly of the cider. So I decided to stick with a really easy sipping, low-octane cocktail with some really nice olfactory notes. So I went with Maria's ginger beer and a little bit of Korean honey ginger tea that I strained all the ginger out and turned into a simple syrup. The garnish is a bourbon maple syrup egg white foam and a little bit of ginger that I extracted from the tea, gently baked and tossed in confectioner sugar. Then a tiny Rosemary sprig for color and scent.

4 oz. Virtue The Mitten cider
1 oz. Maria's Ginger Beer
1 oz. Korean Honey Ginger Tea (ginger strained) 
Garnished with a bourbon maple foam and toasted candied ginger (reserved from the honey tea) 
7 oz. egg white
4 oz. maple simple syrup  
6 oz. bourbon
Pinch o' salt 

Small sprig of rosemary