Deb Harris of Etna loves family get-togethers, a good campfire, and entertaining guests, so it’s no wonder this military wife came up with the perfect beverage to serve at just about any gathering. She calls it apple pie vodka.
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it,” Harris says. “One of my friends just got done explaining the apple pie drink to someone who said, ‘I don’t drink alcohol but I’d drink that!’”
As with most of her cooking and baking, Deb has her husband, Maine Army National Guard Command Sergeant Major Terry Harris, be her taste tester.
“His favorite is my spiced rum, but he likes the apple pie drink, too. Like I said before, I haven’t found anyone who doesn’t like it,” she says.
Military families like the Harris’s have had their share of stress over the last several years, especially with the number of Maine service men and women who have served during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Harris’s husband was deployed during 2006 and 2007 with the 240th Engineer Group as a Brigade Level Operations Sergeant Major, and the couple has seen many of their friends deploy, too. Harris says cooking has always helped her to get through those tough times.
“[Cooking] is my go to for relaxation,” she says. “I actually enjoy making up different recipes for drinks, but my favorite thing to make is breads and sweets.”
Harris admits her apple pie vodka is not a concoction she came up with on her own. Her sister’s Canadian friend shared the recipe with her, and now Harris gets requests for it several times a year.
“Sitting around a campfire and having it on ice is fantastic. I bet I’ve made 20 batches [since getting the recipe],” she says. “At Christmas time, we do a Yankee swap, and my gift for the past three years has been a bottle of apple pie vodka.”
The ingredients are simple, and the process a no-brainer. You probably already have many of the items needed for this fun recipe in your kitchen pantry.
“I pour the apple juice in a large stockpot to heat up,” she explains. “I then put in brown sugar, nutmeg, two to three shakes of ground cloves, honey, and lemon juice.”
After she stirs it all together, she drops in five or six, three-inch cinnamon sticks before bringing it to a full boil.
“It’s almost like an apple cider. You can tell there is alcohol in it, but it’s not unpleasant,” Harris says, as she stirs her mixture. “And on top of all that, you get the effect of an air freshener as you’re cooking, because it makes your whole house smell like an apple orchard.”
Once the apple pie drink mix comes to a boil, Harris slides the pot off the burner to let it cool.
“I don’t think you can ever have a batch not come out, because you are just mixing together apple juice and spices on the stovetop,” Harris explains. “I think the only thing you could do wrong is walk away and let it scorch or burn.”
Once her apple pie drink has had five to six hours to cool, Harris adds in vanilla and Everclear, a brand of grain alcohol she’s only been able to find at the commissary in Bangor and the New Hampshire Liquor store.
“The purpose of letting this cool down completely is so you don’t kill the alcohol content,” she says. She then pours the mixture into canning jars or used alcohol bottles that she’s already cleaned and dried. She makes sure to add a cinnamon stick in the bottom of each bottle before she pours the mixture in.
Harris stores the drink for approximately four weeks before serving it to guests or family members. “It’s best if you let it sit for about a month so the alcohol has time to sit and be potent,” she says.
As smooth at Harris’s apple pie vodka drink is, she warns adults to drink it slowly because of its strength.
“It is truly just a sippy drink. Otherwise, it could land you on your butt real fast, because of the grain alcohol,” she says and laughs.
Apple Pie Vodka Drink
1 gallon 100% natural apple juice
6 cinnamon sticks, 3" in length
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup honey
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. lemon juice
2 or 3 shakes ground cloves
1 tsp. vanilla
750 ml. bottle (1/5th) 190 proof Everclear grain alcohol
Bring everything except the vanilla and Everclear to a slow boil. Once the liquid is boiling, remove from heat and allow mixture to cool completely, which will take approximately 5 to 6 hours. Then stir in vanilla and alcohol. Remove cinnamon sticks and place one apiece in canning jars or bottles that you can seal. Pour drink mix into those containers and let it age for approximately 4 weeks. Shake up drink to allow any spices that may have settled on the bottom of the container to mix in with the liquid. Chill and/or pour over ice before serving.