When I was younger I knew the seasons by the aroma of the house each time I walked through the front door. Or snuck in the back. It would lift clear off the stove and spread through the rooms of the house like wildfire. That first step inside and I could describe the changing of the guard outside. The scent would infiltrate my pores and stay with me forever.
Each new season brought with it a new but familiar bouquet of love. When it started getting cold out, there would be a pot of apple cider warming on the stove with cinnamon, cloves and spices. It was the canvas of our autumns and it warmed my bones, year after year. That cider was a fixture from late fall through Christmas and I never tired of walking in and seeing my mom stirring the pot of cider with promise of a hot cup for me.
I remember fondly the weekend car drives we'd take up to my grandparents outside the city. I looked forward to seeing my grandparents and finding some really good cider. My grandmother never drove all those years yet had the same dreams everyone does. She longed for country walks and Sunday drives. So that's exactly what we did. For her.
We'd pull up the old cracked driveway to see my grandmother sitting in her favourite spot by the window. She didn't have to move to see us coming. We would drop our things inside the house and take my grandmother away for a drive and walk. She had trouble going for longer walks, especially as she got older, but nothing could stop her from a date with nature and bird seeing. Just the three of us with my grandfather sitting in the car waiting. Like he always did.
We walked forever, but forever was only an hour or so back then. She would stop for a breath and point out the different birds. I would chase them away and she'd call them back. And we carried on. By the time we made it back to the car she was exhausted. And happy. Fulfilled. And then we'd take the scenic road home, made especially beautiful in the fall. All those majestic coloured leaves and towering lean trees skirting the side of the road.
On the way back we'd stop when we saw a sign for fresh apple cider. It runs in the family, all the way down the line. We eagerly waited for that first cup spent around the small kitchen table. Within minutes of entering my grandparents house, the two women would go into the kitchen and my grandfather and I sat back and waited for the aroma to find us.
All these years later I still look for the cider signs. I know we're fully immersed in the season when I see it hit the shelves at the local market or see hand painted signs litter the countryside. I instantly think of my grandmother and wish she were here. Sharing a moment.
It's funny that I grew up in a big city and used to laugh off my small town roots. But those roots are long and deep and lead back to my family. Now, after many years living the busy life in the big city, I'm back where I started. In the same small town I used to visit my grandmother in.
I'm only a few blocks from the street I visited as a young boy. They aren't here anymore, gone somewhere better. But as the weekends roll in I often wish I could drive up that old cracked driveway and see her sitting there. I'd pick her up and take her for a drive to the walking paths behind my house. Then, after bird watching, come inside my house and meet my wife and share a pot of hot cider. She'd love that.
My wife and I love sharing a warm cup of cider as the night fades away and the fireplace plays on behind us. But sometimes, when the week is long and worn and tired, I like to turn my childhood drink into a cocktail fitting the man in me.
This punch is delicious and amazing. But it's more. The apple cider inside holds the key to my favourite memories. With my favourite people. And it reminds me of where it all started.
From my kitchen to yours,
Cider Rum Punch
- 8 ounces dark rum
- 3 ounces lemon juice
- 4 ounces thyme simple syrup
- 12 ounces apple cider
- 4 ounces water
- 4 ounces club soda
- 8 dashed of Angostura Bitters
- sprigs of thyme, garnish
- apple wheels, garnish
- To make thyme simple syrup, combine 2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups of water and 6 thyme sprigs in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring up to a boil and reduce to simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and place the syrup in the fridge to cool.
- Place all the ingredients in a large picture or carafe with ice and stir.
- Fill your glasses with crushed ice and fill. Place a sprig of thyme inside and put an apple wheel on the rim.
- Serves 6.