The Washington apple shot has been around since the late 1980s. Seeing as that’s also when I graduated high school, this particular little shooter got under my radar. I sure found it in the 90s, though (along with plenty of other things), and have been mixing it ever since.
The Washington apple shot is such an easy cocktail to make. All you need is an ounce of Canadian whiskey, an ounce of sour apple schnapps, and an ounce of cranberry juice. This is the most basic recipe, though there are slight variations.
Because of its simplicity, some members of the patrician brigade like to consider this shooter a bit lowbrow. You’ll get none of that uppity stuff from me — the reason shall soon become apparent. But before you start acting like Tom Cruise in Jamaica, let’s learn a little more about the famed apple shot.
History of the Apple Shot
Our cocktail of the day actually owes its roots to tragedy. Back in the 1980s (Ronald Reagan! Family Ties! Aerobics!), Washington state apple orchards were thriving. Near the end of the decade, however, a nasty Nigerian parasite invaded the orchards killing vast amounts of precious apples.
It was a disheartening event for orchard owners all over The Evergreen State. Many of them pulled out of the business altogether, moving south to Phoenix, Mexico City…and Pahrump, Nevada, there to harvest cacti for dining room tables all over the western seaboard.
Here is where I grit my teeth like Kyle Reese because there was one man who refused to take the parasites lying down. The man found a way to use the dead and dying apples for an alternate purpose. He turned things around and gave us the Washington apple shot. His name was…Guycoogan. Christof Guycoogan. An orchardist of extraordinary means.
I owe him my life. Or at least a free round.
About Washington Apples
Despite that big 80s invasion of orchard killing pests, the Washington apple made a fast recovery. Today the state is responsible for over 60% of our nation’s apple supply. A big reason for this is Tokul soil.
Tokul soil is abundant in Washington, primarily because a large number of inactive volcanoes that once erupted here left it behind. The nutrients in tokul soil help conifers grow — hence Washington’s nickname, “The Evergreen State”. The soil is also good for apple trees.
Another contributing factor to this fructuous soil dates back to our planet’s last ice age. A huge glacier east of Spokane broke open to release a deluge of water that flooded all of central Washington. As the flood drained into the Pacific Ocean, it deposited large amounts of loose soil onto the old volcanic rock that acted as a basin.
The soil remains loose to this day. Each time it rains, vital nutrients are delivered to any apple tree lucky enough to be growing nearby. This results in ripe, healthy fruit. Thus is the story of the Washington apple: apocalypse, abundance, tragedy, superabundance. In that order.
The Washington Apple Shot Today
Today’s Washington apple shot defines something of a misnomer, for it has very little to do with Washington apples. Such is the way with drinks such as these. Along the winding roads of variation, the original recipe fades into diaphanous lore, which traditionalists like me still consult in bittersweet remembrance.
A visit to Washington State can reveal many things. None, though, will be about old apple farmers crushing rotten fruit into an ingredient for barroom shooters. Having said that, they may be crushing fresh ones to make their own apple schnapps, which is key for the Washington apple shot.
The schnapps is made from apples, sugar, and unflavored vodka sealed together for at least three days in a cool, dark place. It is then poured through a strainer to segregate chunky solids.
Does it matter what kind of apples are used or what state they come from? Yes…and no.
To elaborate: If you’ve ever eaten a granny smith apple, you know they pack a bit of a sour kick. That kick will remain in schnapps made from the granny smith. Conversely, sweeter apples, such as the Fuji, will in turn make your apple shot taste…well, sweeter.
But the apples needn’t be grown in Washington. At least not anymore. Still, no one’s going to be changing the cocktail appellation to The Ohio apple shot, or the Oregon apple shot any time soon.
Have Washington Apple Shots Really Changed Much?
I include this section as a rebuttal to the previous one. The ability to see multiple facets of every jewel is something of a bane for me (more on that later). As I worked on this piece, it occurred to me that while apples from Washington are no longer required, the basic recipe for these shots has endured.
Washington Apple shots haven’t changed much. It can be said that the Washington apple shot is and always will be a mixture of Canadian whiskey, sour apple schnapps, and some cranberry juice. That certainly hasn’t changed. What you add to please your palate—and those of your guests—is another matter.
I have one friend who likes to add a dash of club soda to her apple shots. I know another whose concoction, “The Bane Apple Shooter”, includes rum, lime, and a bit of muddled mint (this one is not for the faint of heart). After trying a Bane Apple Shooter, I woke up hours later on the floor with a very sore back.
In rebuttal to these variations, I remain open-minded to the idea that Washington apple shots are a constant. With just three ingredients and about ten minutes, you’ve got one ready to slam. And how delicious are they? To answer that, let us proceed to the following section.
How Exactly Does an Apple Shot Taste?
Never fear, Gentle Reader, never fear. The Washington apple shot is no enemy of the taste buds. Quite the reverse: The challenge with these drinks lies not with ingestion but with moderation. Apple shots taste so good that you will most certainly ask for another.
The Washington apple shot is, as you may imagine, quite tart. We credit the sour apple schnapps for that, while the cranberry juice and Canadian whiskey provide a sweet aftertaste. The balance weighs in just shy of perfection.
You can serve shots of the Washington apple at parties or quiet little lawn gatherings in celebration of some lucky author who just sold a book. Autumn is the best time of year for shots like these. On cool, windy nights, mix your Washington apple shots with a good ghost story.
Better yet, try them during a seance. Because after about five or six Washington apple shots, something is going to show up to sell the reality of life after death. I kid a little here. Another great time for apple shots is right after dinner. Their sour-sweetness makes for a pretty decent dessert drink.
The Washington apple shot is a fairly straight shooter that works best from a 1.5-ounce (44.36 milliliters) shot glass. This is not to say that a bit of experimentation is totally forbidden. There are no set-in-stone rules for the size of a shot, though, in my opinion, the ceiling is 3 ounces (88.72 milliliters).
Different hard apple drinks include:
- The Appletini cocktail (3.5 ounces or 103.51 milliliters)
- Applejack moonshine (5 ounces or 147.89 milliliters, and for Pete’s sake, drink responsibly)
- Good ole hard cider (8 ounces or 236.59 milliliters)
A couple of 3-ounce (88.72 milliliters) Washington apple shots go great in between bites of cheddar cheese, peanuts, or walnuts. I like to offset my flavors, so after an apple shot, I’ll try to follow things up with a bite of something salty or creamy.
Now let’s make a Washington apple shot.
A Big Recipe! For You!
Here is a very special recipe for Washington apple shots. I’ve already tried it — and it is spot on. Enjoy it with Bane from Christopher Nolan’s somewhat iconic film, or with friends a bit less inclined towards city-wide destruction. Down to business.
- A shot glass
- A cocktail shaker (dance like Tom Cruise in that old movie if you must)
- Canadian whiskey
- Sour apple schnapps
- Cranberry juice
- A bit of sugar as an optional garnish
- Some ice
- Wet the rim of the glass and dip it in a bit of sugar as an optional garnish.
- Mix the ice, apple schnapps, and cranberry juice into a shaker.
- Put on “The Hippy Hippy Shake” and make it like TC.
- Strain the mix into your shot glass.
- Slam it.
- Repeat (though please remember to be moderate).
Washington Apple Shot Recipe
Amazing Washington Apple Shot
- Shot Glass
- Cocktail Shaker
- .5 oz Canadian Whiskey
- .5 oz Sour Apple Schnapps
- .5 oz Cranberry Juice
- 1 Sugar (Garnish)
- (Optional) Wet Shot Glass Rim and Dip in Sugar
- Add Ice, Canadian Whiskey, Sour Apple Schnapps, and Cranberry Juice to Cocktail Shaker
- Shake Until Ingredients are Mixed (5-10 Seconds)
- Strain Drink into Shot Glass
- The sugar garnish is optional, but will make the cocktail slightly sweeter.
Final Cocktail Thoughts
Making a Washington apple shot is almost as much fun as drinking one. Indeed, it could be argued that maybe it’s even a little more fun. But for you or your guests, no shooter goes down with quite as much sour-sweetness as the Washington apple shot. Cheers, mate! And be well!
Must Try Cocktail Recipes
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