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Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2008

Like Dad Used to Make

Travis Hasse’s Apple Pie Liqueur

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Ask someone from rural Wisconsin if he likes apple pie and a likely response will be, “Which kind?” The distinction lies in whether the apple pie was made in an oven or over the stove. Here in the Badger State there is a long-standing tradition of making homemade batches of “Apple Pie,” a potent apple-flavored libation. While the ingredients and methods of preparation vary, the basic formula of the drink includes boiling a mixture of apple cider, sugar and cinnamon sticks. Once the mixture has cooled, a bottle of 190-proof neutral grain spirit, like Everclear, is added. This concoction is then allowed to stew in the fridge, gaining mighty momentum. Apple Pie will give its drinkers the feeling of being heated from head to toe, making subzero temperatures during the fourth quarter at Lambeau bearable and snowmobiling through a whiteout a breeze.

“I inherited my Apple Pie recipe from my father,” says Travis Hasse, producer of The Original Apple Pie Liqueur. Hasse and his wife, Carly, own the historic Missouri Tavern, a 68-year-old establishment located in the town of Springfield, Wis., just north of Madison. The young couple used to make homemade batches of Apple Pie and sell it at their bar as shots. Hasse then trademarked his Apple Pie recipe and began producing it in June through BPNC, a contract distiller and bottler in Temperance, Mich. Since launching his bottled beverage, Hasse has sold more than 82,000 bottles of Original Apple Pie Liqueur nationwide.

“I was going to be happy if, within the first month, we sold a couple hundred cases,” Hasse says. “I had no idea it would be this big.”

The liqueur, which is available in 40- and 70-proof measurements (20% and 35% alcohol by volume, respectively) at an average price point of $15, is distributed by General Beverage Sales and can be found in select bars, liquor stores and supermarkets around Milwaukee.

A typical brand of apple-flavored schnapps, with its tart flavor, syrupy texture and astringent aftertaste, isn’t something spirit connoisseurs tend to enjoy straight up (and the fluorescent green hue certainly doesn’t add to its credibility). Hasse’s Original Apple Pie Liqueur, on the other hand, is worthy of such a practice. Hasse presents his liqueur in a square bottle with a garnet-colored label that features an image of the old Missouri Tavern with its trademark giant elm tree. In the bottle, Apple Pie has the cloudy appearance of fresh apple cider. The spirit is fragrant and sweet, with a distinct “baked” flavor derived from significant cinnamon accents. It is smooth enough to drink alone, but it also has a range of mixing possibilities. For a wintertime warm-up, Hasse suggests adding a dash of his Apple Pie to a cup of tea, or mixing it with bourbon and heating it in a coffee mug to create an American Pie. One of Hasse’s favorite recipes is for an Apple Pie martini, a shaken mix of Apple Pie and vodka, served in a chilled martini glass rimmed with crushed graham crackers and garnished with a cinnamon stick. The MissouriTavern also makes a decadent dessert drink called Apple Pie a la Mode—two scoops of vanilla ice cream blended with Apple Pie and, if you’re feeling extra naughty, a scoop of peanut butter.

Although Hasse is keeping mum about the recipes, he admits he has created other “pie-cordial” flavors that he looks forward to introducing to the market in the future.

The Missouri Tavern, 7071 Kickaboo Road, Waunakee. Open Monday through Thursday 2 p.m. to close; Friday through Sunday noon to close. For more information, call (608) 836-0009 or go to www.drinkapplepie.com.