apple cider buck spritz | scenes from the grape harvest

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Seasonal fruits yield seasonal cocktails, of course, but I don’t see why the season has to dictate cocktail styles so much. I’m still enjoying white wine with dinner, crisp rosés that I happen to score, and frozen cocktails and sorbets, filled with pears or apples. Things you’d mostly associate with warmer weather. I gave one of my favorite summer staples, the spritz, a fall twist. It’s versatile enough to enjoy on its own or in a punch bowl with a fruit-studded ice mold.

Herbal, spicy, bitter notes balanced with a finish of crisp and dry, bubbly apple cider.

How could anyone say no to this?

I know it’s been a few months, but I do have an excuse for my absence in the form of a beautiful story I’d love to share with you: our very first grape harvest. The bird netting is almost put away, the temperatures have dropped, the days are growing shorter, and fall projects have commenced here on the vineyard. Mirroring nature’s slower, autumnal dance, we’ve all lessened our pace, thankfully, and taken our first, albeit abbreviated, breaths of relief.

Most importantly, the last of the grapes have been picked, sold, and sent away. We made sure to save a few hundred pounds, however, so that we could give a go at making our own wine this inaugural harvest season. It’s been quite the learning curve, and no matter how many times you’ve interned or volunteered at a winery, it’s a completely different experience when the grapes and resulting wine are your own.

There are some days, in the middle of summer’s hectic, frenetic season and even now, that we just don’t leave the property. It can be a good or bad thing. Solitude is refreshing and rejuvenating for me, as an extroverted introvert, but it can also be downright isolating. Our team of four regularly escapes to our favorite watering hole, the tasting room at Big B’s Delicious Orchards, just a couple of miles down the road. The farm store and café both boast fare organically grown and raised on their property. There’s even a u-pick garden and a space to camp with a spectacular view of Mount Lamborn in the near distance.

Their ciders are some of the best I’ve ever tried. Head cider-maker, Shawn Larson, orchestrates a perfect balance with his various ciders: sweet and savory, crisp and visceral, fruity and just-enough bitter. My favorite has always been his Orchard Original, a dry, almost sparkling wine-like hard cider. The other one to try right now is his limited edition Ciaison Grand Cru Hard Cider, crafted with Winesap apples from here in the West Elks, tart orange peel, and coriander seeds, fermented in French oak Chardonnay barrels.

It would actually go perfectly here in this cocktail, too.

This cocktail borrows its flavor and style from a buck, a cocktail that centers around ginger and citrus. Even though this is not technically a buck, the flavor profile and texture mirror its characteristics. I encourage you to make a batch of homemade ginger syrup. You’ll use it up in all of the holiday-inspired cocktails this season. If anything, it’s excellent drizzled over an apple crisp or pear tart. I never have trouble using it up, and it’s always in rotation in my fridge.

I chose one of my favorite amari, Amaro Montenegro, as the base for this cocktail. It’s one of the more “drinkable” amari, not quite so bitter, but still complex and interesting. It’s filled with notes of dried orange peel, bitter roots, coriander, and cloves. In fact, over 40 different botanicals are used to make the final amaro, which is slightly sweet, citrusy bright, and bitter on the finish.

If you can’t find Amaro Montenegro, which is generally easy to spot, you can swap Amaro Nonino or Averna, instead. They’ll both substitute perfectly here.

apple cider buck spritz

  1. Fill a flute or wine glass with ice.
  2. Add the Amaro Montenegro and ginger syrup.
  3. Pour hard apple cider to the glass and fill to the top.
  4. Garnish with dried apple slices and pomegranate arils.
  • This can easily be turned into a batch-able punch. The punch dilutes less, if you chill your ingredients before serving. Chill the amaro, ginger syrup, and cider in the fridge the night before. Simply multiply the ingredient amounts by the number of desired servings, and you’re set. Garnish your punch bowl with an ice mold, studded with sliced apples, pomegranate arils, star anise pods, cinnamon sticks, or dried orange wheels. Here’s a photo of a fall-themed version I made recently.

spicy ginger syrup

  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 1 grapefruit, juiced
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup unpeeled, coarsely chopped ginger root
  1. In a saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring along the way, and reduce to a slow, low simmer.
  2. Simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat and let steep until completely cool.
  4. Strain out the solids through a chinois or through cheesecloth and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
  • Give your syrup a seasonal twist and add cinnamon, cardamom pods, star anise, or black peppercorns to the ingredient list.

I’ll keep my words few, since this particular post is so photo-heavy. Besides, sometimes the photos tell it even better than I can. I took the following photos throughout the last weeks of harvest. We grew five different grape varieties {Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and a carboy’s worth of Pinot Noir}, picked over 15 tons of grapes, had well over 30 volunteers and workers assist us with the process, prepped countless meals, popped a few bottles along the way, and made wonderful memories.

A special thanks to my friend, Haley of Brewing Happiness, for capturing me in my element in the very last photo.

I’m especially grateful for how our first season turned out. Despite several frost events, which left a lot of farmers in the valley with either no fruit or a decreased yield, we ended up harvesting just what we originally and conservatively predicted. We negotiated purchases from winemakers here on the western slope and in Denver. We worked almost every day this summer. I can’t say we did it all fearlessly or tirelessly, but we did our work tenaciously.

We learned so much about farming, listening to the weather, respecting the vines, pruning back just the right amount of foliage, navigating our beast-like wind machines, running a tractor and its implements, and operating a business. Sometimes, I want to revert back to my original goal of becoming the very best stay-at-home cat mom ever, but most days, I’m satisfied and encouraged by our bravery {craziness?}.

Thank you to all of our friends and family, who either flew out or drove multiple hours to say hello or help us harvest over the weeks in September and October. The Storm Cellar is quickly becoming so much more than a dream in my mind. It’s becoming the people who’ve worked the land, the friends who’ve helped us, the meals we’ve crafted together, and, eventually, the wines we’ll bottle this spring.

And the biggest of thanks and love to the best partner, friend, and life companion I could ever ask for, Steve Steese. Love you so, so much!


The sappy thanks-fest is over, and I’m off to finish building a retaining wall here at the house, wrapping up a lawn-seeding project, and finally getting after our Thanksgiving meal-planning. Here’s to getting it all done without losing my mind in the process. And let me know if you make one of these cider cocktails!












  1. Joan Steese says:

    I LOVED reading your blog and especially enjoyed the photos. I am SO proud of you and Steve, getting through the challenges of your first year and harvest!! I can’t wait to visit and see it all for myself. Mom Steese

    • Steve and I are finishing up some tacos and watching a nature show together right now. We both send our love and hugs to you! You are always the first to read and respond to every post here, and that warms my heart so much. We can’t wait until you come out here! We will spoil you like crazy! HUGS!!! Happy you loved the photos. Just the tip of the iceberg with them!

  2. Donna Baker-breningstall says:

    Jayme, you are such an inspiration! WowWoWWow. I love how thoughtful you and Steve are going about your whole new life. Thank you for sharing!

    • Donna BB! It’s so great to hear from you. Steve and I think of you often, especially when we talk gardening, which has been a lot here lately.

      We just tilled up our yard and added compost and seeded with a no-mow fescue that requires very little water. We are planning out the garden, so that we can have a harvest next year. We miss our little sanctuary!

      Hugs to you and Orvin! And thank you for your supportive words. It means a lot to me!

  3. Gorgeous as always Jayme and so inspiring to hear about your very own winery – what a dream! I love the idea of the ginger syrup and can imagine a number of uses. Although it’s summer here in Australia, I can see this cocktail working so well to cool down in the steamy heat.

    • I just wrote a story on your blog, lol! Your blog rant post really got me going. Thanks so much for your kind words, Chez. The winery and vineyard are almost too big for me right now. I wasn’t joking about wanting to be a stay-at-home cat mom. 😜 But I signed up for this and can’t stop now. Make that ginger syrup! It’s so great with blackberry cocktails, especially. Enjoy the summer – I’m driving through snow right now {actually the passenger…}, and I’d jump at the chance to fly down to Australia. The vines and fencing can WAIT! 😘

      • You are killing me with these endlessly amazing ideas! Blackberry cocktails with ginger syrup is exactly what I need right now. I always like to post a summer drink (alcoholic or not) on the blog…and this could be it for this year. Meanwhile I would gladly exchange places with you too as summer’s here are just too hot/humid for my liking. I’m actually from NZ and used to pleasantly warm summers, not the fire-and-melting type they do here. Have a wonderful winter and I look forward to seeing more exciting news about the winery and vineyard when you get a spare five minutes to write 🙂

  4. These photos and this post are all stunning…..could you please clone yourself so you can write a book, include photos and open a B/B??? Love, Laurie! PS…..have an amazing Thanksgiving! PPS the photo of you laughing at the end is simply LOVE to me…..

    • Laurie!!

      Thank you for stopping by. I need a formal catchup with you. Please forgive my delay!! Right now, Steve and I are driving back to Denver to see family for Thanksgiving. It’ll be a quick break, but we need some family time – and some socialization!! Seriously, the vines can get so isolating.

      Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. And sending you a very big hug right – – – NOW!!!

      PS – We are opening a B&B in two years, fingers crossed and funds permitting! You’re on to something there! 😘

  5. familystylefoodkaren says:

    This looks so beautiful AND delicious! I love gingery citrus flavors, as well as amaro. I’m going to make this with some of the small batch NY state cider I just bought. Cheers.

    • Thank you, Karen! Ginger and citrus go so well with the different amari. I especially love Amaro Nonino and Montenegro for their orange-forward notes. Let me know how the recipe goes! Which small-batch NY state cider do you use? Enjoy the holidays!!

      • familystylefoodkaren says:

        I love Nonino, maybe a bit too much 🙂 I haven’t tried Montenegro, but will keep an eye out for it.
        I was inspired by your spritz and riffed on it a bit – I used BlackBird Cider Works cider and Campari, since I was all out of amaro! The ginger syrup adds lovely warmth and spark to the drink.

      • This sounds delicious! I’ll have to look for BlackBird Cider Works. I’ve been in love with discovering ciders lately. If you love Nonino (…I have a problem!!), you’ll enjoy Montenegro, for sure. Cheers!!

  6. […] at Holly and Flora inspired the elements of this drink recipe. Check out her beautiful blog, which is full of […]

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