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Cookies and Booze

December 15, 2014

Today, I’m flying back home. I’m actually posting right now from the Chicago airport. Breakfast was a bag of Garrett’s popcorn mix. For those who don’t know, that’s half cheesecorn and half caramelcrisp.

Popcorn must have more nutrition than a bagel. But I suppose when it stains your fingers orange and sticks to your teeth, you may have to reconsider its health benefits.

For the past few days I’ve been traveling. I’ve also been at war with the internet. It hasn’t been cooperating, and as a result, I was left with no other option than to write posts on my phone. Needless to say, they didn’t quite rise up to the standard that’s been set at the FLB for the past several years.

The story I’ve been dying to share is the one where I tell what I ultimately brought from Albany to share with my friends.

As it turns out, fate played a sizable role in the decision. And by fate, I mean last week’s onslaught of wet snow, over ice, mixed with rain, slush, and whatever else that was falling from the sky.

The snow tires are going on the car next week. If I didn’t have a pressing reason, I would simply have stayed safe at home. But I soldiered on, and went to the closest place with the largest selection of locally produced craft spirits near my house: Empire Wine & Spirits. 

One of the challenges of craft spirits is minuscule levels of production.

And that’s okay. It helps to keep it special. But it can be a real bummer when you go to the store with a specific bottle on your mind and there is none on the shelf. This time, Empire had run out of Albany Distilling Co’s aged rum. Because of the peculiarities of New York State law, I couldn’t even run down to the distillery and pick up a bottle, because they aren’t allowed to sell their rum on site (being that it’s not made from NYS molasses).

On the upside, Empire did have plenty of Harvest Spirits’ Cornelius Applejack on hand. And I’m quite happy to hold that up as one of the defining products of the Capital Region.

Is it made in Albany? No. But we’re smack in the middle of apple country. There’s a long history upstate of turning apples into this classic American spirit. Granted, some of its early versions were significantly less refined. The one mass market modern brand of Applejack is no great shakes either. Laird’s pales in comparison to what’s made in our backyard. Cornelius is made from the orchard’s own damaged fruit, that’s been crushed, turned to cider, fermented and distilled. Then it’s placed into Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels where it ages, picks up those whiskey notes, and a bit of golden color.

For anyone who enjoys making esoteric classic cocktails, a bottle of this is a necessity. Unless of course, you are following the 12 Bottle Bar method. In which case, the Jack Rose is entirely beyond your grasp.

I also really wanted to bring something from Stewart’s. I even bought a six pack of Mountain Brew Ice. But I just didn’t have the heart to bring it on the trip. My thought is that there are some things outlanders just aren’t prepared to experience.

But based on reader feedback, I did pick up a couple boxes of Freihofer’s chocolate chip cookies. I’m going out on a limb for you people. In all my years, I don’t think I’ve ever had one. Largely, that’s because I’m ruled by quality ingredients and craft. And as far as I can tell, these beloved cookies have neither.

Yet, I cannot ignore how central they are to the experience of life in the Capital Region. Even my father, when he was a young boy, would pass through the region would delight at the chance of eating Freihofer’s chocolate chip cookies. He still speaks of them. I imagine these cookies were different then, you know, before the entire operation was purchased by an international bakery conglomeration.

Now that I’ve had my first taste of these, I can’t say I’ll be rushing back for a second. But there were at least a few of my friends who really enjoyed them. Maybe they didn’t read the ingredients.

Anyhow, I’ll be back home soon. I hope that by the time I arrive, the weather in Albany has changed. It’s going to be a long winter, isn’t it?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. DEN permalink
    December 15, 2014 11:40 am

    Rocco DeFazio tells a great story about how General Mills changed the special chocolate chips in Freihofer’s cookies when it acquired the brand. The mistake was never rectified and they have not been the same ever since.

  2. December 15, 2014 2:21 pm

    That Harvest spirit stuff is “applejack” in name only. I may or may not be aware of someone who may or may not soon be in possession of some traditionally made applejack…

  3. Jack C permalink
    December 15, 2014 10:36 pm

    I’d love to find a truly “jacked” applejack, which is crafted by freeze-distilling cider. I heard on WAMC’s Vox Pop a few months ago that the guys over at Nine Pin made some for themselves by freezing Nine Pin. I can only imagine how good that was…

  4. Dave S permalink
    December 17, 2014 5:59 pm

    Freihofer’s chocolate chip cookies: Those little soft cookies were new to me and my family in Utica (in the 60’s?), and, like most of their stuff, was better in the past. Applejack = Laird’s

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