The appletini is horseshit.
I'm not denying it can be appealing. It's essentially grain alcohol filled with the same artificial flavorings as a pack of Skittles, and some bottled sour mix. It's candy that'll get you drunk. That can be tasty. But it's also horseshit.
It's a kiddie drink, like Yoohoo. There's nothing wrong with adults having kiddie drinks once in a while. But it shouldn't be your diet.
Like I've said, I sometimes attempt to make good versions of things I don't like, and the appletini in particular has plenty of potential. There's no reason an apple cocktail can't be good ... and the Jack Rose is a plenty good applejack cocktail ...
... but the appletini, I decided, can't be an applejack drink.
See, that's the other reason the appletini is bullshit: this "tini" business. You know, I once had a margarita that the menu called a Cowboytini? What the fuck is that? A martini is one drink with two versions, gin or vodka. Serving something in a cocktail glass does not make it a something-or-other-tini. That doesn't make any fucking sense. This "tini" shit led to the marriage of neutral spirits, sour mix, and artificial candy flavors in one damn marked-up "cocktail" after another. If I'm going to drink ridiculous shit like that, it's going to be a daiquiri in New Orleans.
So here are the ground rules for my attempts at remixing the appletini:
1: There must be an apple component, and it must be the principal flavor. I never said the ground rules wouldn't be obvious.
2: The base liquor must be gin or vodka.
Now, this probably means the Kte'pi Appletini is going to be vodka based. Apple is a tricky flavor to work with when you're not using artificial flavors. A little doesn't go a long way, like with lemon juice. Gin could overwhelm the apple component. I haven't even tried a gin version yet, because I'm going to start out with yet another Tuthilltown Spirits product: Heart of the Hudson vodka.
Tuthilltown makes two kinds of apple vodka: Heart of the Hudson, which is distilled twice, and Spirit of the Hudson, which is distilled three times. Instead of starting with neutral spirits and adding Jolly Rancher flavorings, the Tuthilltown apple vodkas start with apples from the Hudson Valley (I don't know what kind, and it probably varies), which are fermented into cider and distilled in a pot still. Because the Heart is distilled less, it retains more apple flavor, but it's all relative -- the apple flavor is very faint, very muted and transformed by the double distillation. This is certainly not apple brandy or applejack. This is an unflavored vodka, but not a flavorless vodka, you dig. It's very good, with subtle whispery flavors when you drink it straight. The trick is hanging onto the apple flavor when you mix it.
Now, a martini should also have vermouth. Because this is an appletini, not a martini, I'm not making that a ground rule ... just in case the use of vermouth complicates things too much. For now I'm using it -- Punt e Mes, the bittersweet vermouth I've mentioned before.
So here's Appletini Remix #1:
1 1/2 oz Heart of the Hudson vodka
1/2 oz Punt e Mes
1/4 oz St Germain elderflower liqueur
1/8 oz Allspice dram
The idea is that the ingredients all accentuate apple-like flavor notes. Allspice dram is strong stuff -- too much more than this, and it's a spiced apple whatever. Just a little, with the floral-fruity notes of the St Germain ... definitely triggers a lot of apple expectation in your head. This is a good drink. But I don't know if the apple flavor is strong enough. I'd keep tinkering one way or the other, just to see, but I don't expect this to be the final remix, is what I'm saying.
Adding 1 1/2 oz of apple cider -- unfiltered, unfermented, unpasteurized apple cider, from an orchard -- kicks the apple up a lot, obviously. We're not there yet, but that's a direction to explore.