If you love apricots as much as I do, you're in for a treat with today's cocktail recipe: the luscious - and saucily named - Knicker Twist.
I first tried this cocktail at Rye in Brooklyn. I'm a big fan of drinks from the sours family (alcohol + citrus juice + a sweetener) and this combination of vodka, fresh lime juice, orange liqueur, and apricot preserves immediately grabbed my interest. Rich, lush, and the perfect balance between sour and sweet, the Knicker Twist had me at first sip. (Its booze-soaked fruit garnish was an extra bonus too.)
Intrigued by the drink's sassy handle, I asked its creator, Rye's head bartender Sother Teague, to tell me the story behind it. He explained that the recipe is modeled on a classic cocktail called the Knickerbocker (rum, raspberry syrup, curacao, and lime juice). The "twist" here is that apricot jam is subbed in as the fruit component and vodka is used as the spirit base.
A trained chef with many years spent in professional kitchens before he took up a career behind the bar, Sother often brings his culinary chops to his cocktail recipes - in this particular case, in his use of homemade apricot preserves and a macerated fruit garnish.
Sother said he created the vodka-based Knicker Twist as an approachable, entry-level cocktail to sit alongside some of the more elaborate options on Rye's menu. "I did it to please the clientele that come to Rye a bit uninitiated to the current "cocktail culture." I figured if I can get them to try something and like it then I'd gain their trust enough to guide them to a more ambitious drink." This immediately made me wonder if it would be simple enough to make at home myself.
Sother was kind enough to share his recipe, including instructions for making homemade apricot preserves as well as the boozy apricot garnish. I gave it a test drive in my own kitchen, taking a few shortcuts (i.e., subbing in store-bought jam). I did take time, though, to make up a mini-batch of six garnishes, macerating the dried apricots in brandy and apricot nectar the night before. The yummy results were well worth the extra step.
Here's the basic cocktail recipe, plus full instructions for the homemade jam and the garnish. The words are Sother's, the notes in [ ] are mine.
by Sother Teague of Rye (Reproduced with permission.)
makes one cocktail
2 ounces vodka of your choice (I use 80 proof Luksusova potato vodka)
1 ounce curacao or triple sec [I used Cointreau, which isn't quite as sweet]
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice (goes without saying that fresh is best)
1 1/2 teaspoons apricot jam* [I used store-bought jam, scooping up the jellied bits and avoiding the apricot pieces and pulp.]
Garnish: macerated dried apricot**
Put all ingredients in a shaker and cover with ice. Shake vigorously to break up the jam and emulsify the drink. Double strain (to remove any solids and ice shavings) into a chilled 5-ounce coupe glass. Using the natural separation of the dried apricot, open it and pinch it to the rim of the glass. Cheers!
Makes approximately 2 1/2 quarts
8 cups apricots, diced
1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
16 ounces apricot nectar (I use Goya)
5 1/2 cups sugar
Bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often. Strain mixture through a fine strainer. Allow to cool before refrigerating. It should set like soft jello.
To expedite the process there are a couple of options. Just use a pulp-free jelly from the store. This would require extra vigorous shaking though. [I used store-bought jam instead of jelly and improvised a little, scooping up the jellied bits and avoiding the apricot pieces and pulp.] Or melt the store-bought jelly on the stove top with some nectar and strain and store as above. Further, this could be done with any jelly-and-juice combo with equally tasty results.
25 unsulfured natural dried apricots
3 ounces brandy of choice (inexpensive)
3 ounces apricot nectar
Place all ingredients in a container that will just hold them snug. Allow to macerate for 24 hours. Save the syrup - it's delicious on scones and biscuits!
Related: Recipe Riff: Ginger-Kumquat Smash
Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC's Astor Center. She is a contributor to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries and is the recipient of the American Egg Board Fellowship in culinary writing at the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry.
(Images: Nora Maynard)