Cocktail Creators: Apples to Apples

BY Peyton Garcia


Buffalo Trace bourbon changed the whiskey landscape. With over 100 awards, it is aptly named for the paths left behind by buffalo migrating across America—trails that literally paved the way for Native Americans and settlers that grew apples, corn, and wheat. The bourbon is aged for seven years with traces of those same flavors. At Satchel’s, located in the heart of Denver, head bartender Aidan Wren has found a clever way to accentuate not only the flavors of Buffalo Trace bourbon but the history behind it as well.

Inspired by the colorful complexity of fall, Wren brings together a handful of carefully harvested ingredients to create the Apples to Apples cocktail. Mixed with a touch of the modern era, like the card game it’s named after that combines adjectives and nouns for a bit of fun, the cocktail is a combination of tradition and the unexpected.

The mash bill for Buffalo Trace’s bourbon is a well-kept secret; the distillery calls it “BTD Mashbill #1” but acknowledges it has the highest corn content of all its rye bourbon recipes. Wren amps this up by using a brown butter fat wash, a technique that separates the fat solids from flavors through freezing and straining.  To mimic the taste profile of the Honeycrisp apples Wren grew up eating, he adds sherry vinegar, honey, and sambal to give not only the tart, acidic notes of an apple but also a surprising added tingle—an extra layer of texture that lingers after each sip.  Ginger, nutmeg, allspice, apple juice, cardamom, and cinnamon all go into the large batch of simple syrup he creates daily;  its slightly sweet flavors that round out the delicate depth of the drink.  Le Verger French Terroir Liqueur’s natural ingredients bring the orchard to life with notes of stone fruits balanced by the slight grittiness of pepper while St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram reinforces earthier spices with a touch of smoke.  Finally, Bittermens mole bitters add a dark, chocolate and chile finish, reminiscent of those delicacies that were traded in 17th century America.  As Wren combines all these elements together, we’re brought back to a time when all these flavors were on the table.

Apples to Apples is an old fashioned-style, bourbon-centric cocktail that’s subtle and complex. It’s a mouth full of flavor perfect for fall weather, with baking spices that complement both the bourbon and liqueur. As one of Satchel’s top three best-selling cocktails, it’s listed first on the menu because customers often know they want it the moment they see it.  It pairs famously with Satchel’s duck fat fries, autumn burrata, or smoked bone-in pork chop.  But more than anything, it will make you fall in love with Buffalo Trace all over again.

Apples to Apples brings big-time fall flavors, but it’s a best seller any time of year. / Courtesy Aidan Wren
  • Restaurant: Satchel’s 1710 E. 6th Ave., Denver
  • Bartender: Aidan Wren, head bartender
  • Cocktail: Apples to Apples
  • Brand: Sazerac (Buffalo Trace bourbon, Bittermens Xocolatl mole bitters)
  • Glass: Double old fashioned with 2 by 2 inch ice cube, orange ribbon, and dehydrated apple slice
  • Pour Cost: 14 percent at $1.82
  • Drink Cost: $13
  • Popularity: Always in the top 3 best-selling


  • 2 ounces brown butter-washed Buffalo Trace (Wren’s brown butter recipe includes brown butter, honey, sherry vinegar, and sambal)
  • ½ ounce Le Verger French Terroir Liqueur
  • ¼ ounce  St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
  • ¼ ounce spiced apple simple syrup (sugar/apple juice spiced with ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, and cinnamon)
  • 2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters. 

Ian Mitchell is a lover of pretty words, thoughtful dialogue, food and drink, and any fuel that brings people together. He currently works as a bartender at Boulder’s River and Woods.

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Peyton Garcia