For today's boxed wine pitcher cocktail, I combined two flavors synonymous with the winter months: apple cider and rosemary. I added a rich aged rum, dry orange curaçao, crisp white wine, and spiced orange bitters to these classic holiday flavors for this island-inspired drink. It's the perfect pitcher cocktail to ease the tension in a crowded kitchen or just sip on all afternoon.
This particular recipe calls for a dry white wine, so look for either a pinot grigio or a chardonnay. Both wines will bring rich, fruity notes of apples and citrus-like acidity. Even if you opt for an oaked chardonnay, which will impart more rounded, toasty flavors, it will marry well with the similar characteristics of the oak-aged rum.
Aged rum and dry orange curaçao are a classic pair in cocktails. I experimented with both Grand Marnier and Cointreau for this particular pitcher drink, and dry orange curaçao won out. Its tart and bitter flavors bring balance to the sweet rum and apple cider.
In so many classic cocktail recipes, the ingredient that ties the recipe together is the small dash of finishing bitters; the same holds true for this recipe. The notes of dried orange peels, cloves, and cardamom in the orange bitters impart a toasty, wintry feel and complement the fresh apple flavor here.
For the simple syrup: 1/2 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup water
For the cocktail: 24 ounces dry white wine (I used Black Box Pinot Grigio)
12 ounces aged rum (I used Pyrat XO)
12 ounces apple cider
6 ounces dry orange curaçao (I used Pierre Ferrand)
3 ounces simple syrup
12 ounces chilled soda water, to taste
20 to 24 dashes orange bitters (I used Miracle Mile)
4 apples, sliced for garnish
8 to 12 fresh rosemary sprigs, for garnish
For the simple syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the cane sugar and water. Bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat and then lower the heat to a slow simmer, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
In a large pitcher or punch bowl, combine the white wine, rum, apple cider, dry curaçao, and simple syrup. Stir until incorporated and chill in the refrigerator until you're ready to enjoy. You can make this portion of the cocktail a day ahead and store it in the refrigerator; just give the mixture a good stir before serving.
For the cocktail: When you're ready to serve the cocktail, fill your pitcher or punch bowl with ice and add the chilled cocktail mixture. Quickly top with the soda water, taste for balance, and give the mixture a gentle stir. Prep individual cocktail glasses with ice; add the finished white whine, rum, and apple cider cocktail; and garnish with apple slices and rosemary sprigs.
Another great aged rum to try is Ron Zacapa. I wouldn't substitute white rum for this recipe, or else you'd really lose out on the complexity. You could safely swap a spiced rum for the aged rum for an even more intensely spiced cocktail.