Autumn Cocktail: Ohio 71

photo by Brian Petro
photo by Brian Petro

John Chapman is an American businessman that became an American legend. If you are from the Midwest or New England, I am fairly certain you have heard of this hero. If you are not, then you may have experienced him through classic cartoons or stories about the legends of the United States. Mr. Chapman was the son of a soldier from the Revolutionary War, Nathaniel Chapman. Nathaniel fought hard during the war, but his time away from home cost him his wife, who died in childbirth, and the son that was born. When he came home, he taught his son John farming. He apprenticed under an orchardist in western Pennsylvania before heading west in 1812. As he travelled west, he would scope out prime parcels of land for growing orchards and purchased them. He would plant seeds there, often harvesting them from cider and applejack distillers, and allowed the trees to grow. When they had matured and he was sure they were sustainable, he would sell the orchards and surrounding land and keep going. He planted orchards in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana. But mainly in Ohio. After his death in 1845, he became better known as Johnny Appleseed for all of the apples he had planted over his lifetime.

The Disney and other child-friendly versions ignore one little fact about the apples that Mr. Appleseed planted; they were not good for eating. Putting in pies and using for applesauce maybe, but not just reaching up, rubbing it clean on your jacket and munching. They were best used for making hard cider and applejack. Liquor was more than just something to get drunk on in the 19th century. It helped farmers convert unused produce into a sellable product, or just turn their crop into quick cash. It was safer to drink than water because of fermentation and distillation. Hard cider was incredibly easy to make. So easy, in fact, it avoided being banned during Prohibition because the government knew they could not stop it from happening. Johnny Appleseed was creating vast fields apples for hard cider that thirsty frontiersman appreciated as the country kept moving west. Of course he was going to become a legend.

Johnny Appleseed by HS Knapp via Wikimedia
Johnny Appleseed by HS Knapp via Wikimedia

Cider, whether you enjoy the hard stuff or the non-alcoholic version, is a delight to drink. As the days in fall get cooler, some will even switch over to heating their cider. Cinnamon sticks and all manner of spices will be added, and hot cider will be enjoyed around roaring fires in back yards and camp sites in states where the air has some bite. There are other ways to warm it up: ditching the heat and slipping a little bourbon into your glass. Bourbon and apples are an amazing pairing, with the tartness of the apples and the layers of flavor in bourbon sitting comfortably in the glass together. It is a combination that is continuously explored in all manner of recipes.

Ohio 71

  • 1.5 oz./ 30 mL bourbon (Choose one with a high rye mash bill, like Bulleit or Old Grand Dad)
  • .75 oz/ 22 mL Non-Alcoholic Apple Cider
  • .25 oz/ 7 mL Amber Maple Syrup
  • 3 oz./ 120 mL Hard Apple Cider (I used Rhinegeist’s Semi Dry Cider)
  • Glass: Champagne or Coupe
  • Garnish: None

Pour the bourbon, apple cider, and maple syrup into a mixing tin. Add ice, then shake until chilled. Strain into glass, then top off with the hard cider. Serve.

I have been a fan of the French 75 for a very long time. That became the base for the exploration of this cocktail. It is going to have a little less kick than its namesake, but you will have a little slice of fall in a glass, no pumpkin needed. Interstate 71 connects the three major cities of Ohio (Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati) to bourbon country in Kentucky, giving this cocktail its name.

Johnny Appleseed, in his bare feet and pot for a hat, would certainly approve.