A Michigander is like fall in a glass, and it's made with apple brandy

A Michigander is like fall in a glass, and it's made with apple brandy
Courtesy of Aleka’s Get Together

A Midwesterner misses the seasons and writes about his homesickness.

Someone may actually be saying that they would miss the fall when they say "but I would miss the seasons" when talking about living somewhere warm, such as Phoenix or Los Angeles.

If you live in a cold climate, winter can be both invigorating and pitiless, but there's something magical about the fall season. Whether you're a bartender named Jason Schiffer or you'd like to relocate to Southern California, you'd long for the crisp air. The leaves are turning colors. Warmer clothes still have a novel thrill. It's the kind of thing you'd yearn for if you moved there.

Choosing the name Michigander, which is the ridiculous word people from Michigan use to describe themselves, underscores the inspiration and roots it in a sense of place and time. 

With honey, a springtime flavor, fresh lemon juice keeps the whole project from becoming too sweet, and it adds a warm sweetness to the apples. The grapefruit peel serves as a garnish, adding a slightly numbing bitterness to the whole thing. It's autumn in a glass.


In a few more weeks, he tweaked the recipe until he came up with the Detroiter, an IPA version of the Michigander topped with a few ounces of bitterness—the Detroiter, according to him, is the bitterest Michigander. Among Schiffer's books, the Detroiter, which he co-authored with Dave Stolte and used in Home Bar Basics (and Not-So Basics), is the one that gets the most attention.

Being a former Midwesterner (and fellow bartender) I possess a special affection for the Michigander. My craving seems to appear out of nowhere every year around October, when nothing else soothes that part of me that stares at the trees and thinks that the leaves should be a different color. I forget about it most of the year, but a craving appears, seemingly out of nowhere. I think the leaves should be a different color because I eat cheddar, wear mittens, and have flat-a-accented Midwestern accents.


  • 1 oz. apple brandy
  • 1 oz. Cynar
  • 0.75 oz. honey syrup
  • 0.75 oz. fresh lemon juice

Shake all ingredients for 8 to 10 seconds in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice and garnish with grapefruit peel. 


A blending of 65 percent neutral spirits and 35 percent apple distillate, Laird's Applejack, was used by Schiffer in 2011 as the original apple brandy. There is much better Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy, 100 proof and 100 percent apples, that is widely available. Having said that, pretty much any 100 percent apple brandy will do here. Avoid anything overly aged, "XO" or older than 8 or 10 years, as the oak will mute the fruit. Calvados, as well as other domestic producers, such as Clear Creak and Rhinehall, work well. If you can't get French calvados, you can use any other domestic brand.

Its front label resembles a Soviet propaganda poster, with the noble artichoke burst out from the bottle like a piece of Soviet propaganda. Cynar is an Italian liqueur that's bitter and earthy. As well as getting its name from the Latin genus for the artichoke (cynara), Cynar is often referred to as an "artichoke liqueur," but that's not entirely accurate. There is no taste of artichokes or any particular plant in this drink, but rather an amalgamation of all its ingredients, bitter and deeply vegetable.

A honey syrup can be made out of two parts honey and one part warm or hot water and stirred together to make a honey mixture for cocktails. Honey is too viscous to use at room temperature, so we need to make it into a syrup before putting it in the cocktail. Honey, like an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, tends to cling, so it's best to weigh it rather than measure it by volume, but both will work fine. If you have a scale in your kitchen, this is the perfect time to pull it out.

In the beginning, this drink is a bit sweet, then it dries out with a bitter finish. You can reduce the honey to 0.5 oz. if you are sensitive to sweetness. Personally, I would keep the honey where it is. There is always a touch of sweetness in every fall treat.

It is the garnish that plays the most important role in this case. It adds a citrus-tinged bitterness to the honey, almost numbing, and it really complements the outfit, much like a well-chosen scarf. The "royal" shake, similar to the Gold Rush, is perfect for those who love grapefruit's zesty bitterness. Place grapefruit peel in the tin, shake, and strain.

Courtesy of Corp! Magazine

Bonus Recipe: Detroiter

  • 1 oz. Cynar
  • 0.75 oz. apple brandy
  • 0.75 oz. honey syrup
  • 0.75 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 oz. IPA

I recommend mixing all ingredients except the IPA into a cocktail shaker and adding ice to shake for 6 to 8 seconds. I then add the IPA to the glass over fresh ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a grapefruit peel and serve immediately.

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