My friends used to be happy enough with the free booze that came along with a session of cocktail experiments. Now they’ve become my biggest critics: “Needs more acid,” they say. “The ginger-beer thing is so tired.” “If I see one more riff on the Manhattan…”

This week I had a fridge full of late-summer peaches and early-autumn apples (and an extra bottle of bourbon), so I tooled around with some drinks. And some more. And a few more, until I found two that earned unanimous endorsement.

Apfel Tart

1/2 small Honeycrisp apple, seeded and coarsely chopped

1/2 ounce maple syrup


2 ounces bourbon

1/4 ounces sweet vermouth, preferably Punt e Mes

2 dashes apple balsamic vinegar

In a rocks glass, gently muddle the apple and maple syrup (the apple should be smashed but not pureed). Fill the glass with ice and add the bourbon, vermouth and vinegar. Stir well.

Peach Cocktail No. 4

5 slices slightly underripe peach

5 mint leaves

1/4 ounce simple syrup

2 ounces bourbon

1/2 oz Cointreau or other triple sec

1/4 oz lemon juice

2 dashes peach bitters

In cocktail shaker muddle 4 of the peach slices and the mint with the syrup. Fill the shaker with ice and add the bourbon, Cointreau, lemon juice and bitters. Shake for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the remaining peach slice.