the stone fence (plus!)

stone fence (plus)

For all my talking about being a bourbon lover, I am an embarrassingly pathetic (read: light) drinker. And Andrew is no better. Between the two of us, it takes us about three days to finish one bottle of wine.

You read that right. Three (3!). Days. Kind of sad, if you ask me.

Around this time of year, however it’s not the wine I want, however pitiful my consumption is. I lovingly refer to these few months as “Brown Liquor Weather”, but there again, I lie. You just imagine that I fix Andrew and me a nightly cocktail to warm ourselves up, but here is the germane truth: we usually just stick to water with our dinner. While I fantasize of our indie Brooklyn nights, with Ella Fitzgerald or Thelonius Monk in the background, sipping on fancy cocktails, in reality our nights are quite tame and decidedly uncool. Dinner is usually followed by some nerdy television, or oftentimes, more work.

But this drink here is the closest thing to turn us into bonafide drunks. If anything will do it – it’s this very concoction, a rather common drink called the Stone Fence.

stone fence (plus)

When I first learned of it, I fell for the name immediately. It made me think of the Robert Frost poem “Mending Fences”, which has nothing to do with cocktails or bourbon or drinking for that matter. What it talks about, in Frost’s famous use of synecdoche (or some might argue metonymy, as I recall some poetry classes from years past), is fences. And how they, supposedly, make good neighbors. Or do they? It’s not literal, of course, and it gives you pause, just thinking about it. As far as poets go, I’ve always had a thing for Robert Frost and his remarkably low-key, but really sad life. I wish I’d known him, spent time with him in Vermont, learned from his wisdom. I could see us going on walks together, or tending to his garden, or reading to each other out loud. I’d be a better person for it.

I won’t, however, be a better person drinking lots and lots of the Stone Fence cocktails, which is something I really want to do all the time. They pose a dangerous, slippery slope, I think, especially when Andrew and I have the following conversation.

Andrew: So that cider-bourbon drink…
Me: Uhuh
Andrew: It’s something they should sell at Starbucks. I go to Starbucks for hot cider. I’d rather drink this
Me: Really? Starbucks?
Andrew: It’s wintry and cozy. But, I’d so much rather drink this instead.
Me: As in spiked with bourbon?
Andrew: Exactly.

stone fence (plus)

So just picture Andrew going off to work, filling up his mug with some Stone Fence, and arriving to the office generously sloshed. Something tells me that his day might go really quickly, but I can’t vouch for his productivity.

The standard Stone Fence is a rather simple concoction using just two ingredients: apple cider and bourbon over some ice. If you’re going to a stickler for historical details, then David Wondrich, aka one of the foremost authorities on cocktails history, will tell you that the drink dates back to the late 1700s, when the British and the armed colonists were, shall we say, disagreeing with one another. As in with guns. So, I presume the cocktail, originally made with rum and hard cider, served as liquid courage of sorts. But more often than not, these days when you ask for a Stone Fence at a bar, you’re likely to get rye or bourbon over rum.

And I most definitely prefer bourbon or rye over rum, just about any day. And I wanted to give the drink a bit more dimension, not that there’s anything wrong with its elegant simplicity; it’s just that my taste buds were craving a bit more.

So I reduced the cider by half, stirred in some grade B maple syrup (worth the extra pennies, I promise you), fresh lemon juice, and tossed a couple of paper-thin slices of fresh ginger. And then I took a sip. And another one. And then another one. And then I realized that I was having a stiff cocktail at eleven o’clock in the morning.

Andrew, who was working from home that day, tasted it a bit, but declined to finish it. He looked at his watch, pointed out the time to me (gee, thanks honey!), and retuned to his desk. I, on the other hand, thought that wasting this fantastic cocktail would surely be a sin. I’m sure you figure out what happened.

It was a famous afternoon, indeed.

The Stone Fence (Plus!)

2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup rye or bourbon
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons maple syrup (Grade B, preferably)
8 thin slices peeled gingerroot
1 cup seltzer

1. In a medium saucepan, over high heat, boil the cider until it has reduced by half to 1 cup, about 20 minutes. Cool over an ice bath until at room temperature
2. Combine the cider, bourbon, lemon juice, maple syrup in a medium bowl. Divide among 4 8-ounce glasses, add a few ice cubes, and top each glass with a splash of seltzer. Garnish with ginger slices. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 drinks.


  • sarah @ two tarts

    Yum – sounds great! We’ve been having a lot of fun with winter cocktails lately, too. I used to think I didn’t like Bourbon, but recently made something with Clementine, Cloves and Bourbon…I have now officially changed my tune. Oh and also – what is up with Grade B maple syrup being BETTER than Grade A?! I just learned about this last week over at Smitten Kitchen and now I’m hearing it here too. craziness!

  • Radish

    Sarah – grade B has more mapliness. I actually thought that was common knowledge until I read it on Deb’s blog and then realized people might be foregoing the better maple syrup! Grade B has so much more character – and while it’s 2x the cost of grade A, I think it’s well worth the splurge!!

  • Molly

    For some reason, metonymy is the one I have the easiest time remembering: when one word represents the whole, like White House representing the entire executive branch, and not just someone’s living quarters on Pennsylvania Avenue. I think synecdoche is when you substitute a part for the whole — all hands on deck is more than just some hands– but that one, I admit, is one I have to think about.

    Your Stone Fence sounds nice. I’m trying to decide if it’d make a good 11am brunch cocktail, but I always think citrus when I think about brunch drinks.

  • kickpleat

    I used to think I liked bourbon better than rum, but then I tried Goslings dark rum and it’s incredible! So good for a dark n’ stormy. I still like bourbon better, but don’t discount a great rum! This drink sounds very drinkable and festive!

  • Radish

    kickpleat – I’m not a rum hater, at all :) I just love my bourbon, that’s all. Give me a Manhattan and I’m your friend for life!

  • EB

    I’ve had this drink (many times) minus the maple. Interesting. I’m not a maple fan, but definitely willing to give it a go!

  • Katie

    This sounds so great! I love that you’ve added maple and the thin slices of ginger. Now I just need to hunt down some apple cider! And maple syrup – as a Canadian living in Sweden, the lack of decent maple syrup and the exorbitant price of what actually is available is a constant source of frustration. But bourbon makes everything better, right?!

  • Radish

    Katie – you should ask for care packages with nothing but maple syrup! Doesn’t it make you want to put it on everything now that it’s such a rare thing where you are? Also, how are they with peanut butter? And yes, bourbon does make everything better. Or good rye. Rittenhouse is inexpensive and makes for an excellent Manhattan or Stone Fence.

  • ruhama

    I heard recently that Starbucks is going to start selling alcohol (one test market is Chicago area)… but it would only be beer and wine, not cocktails. :)

  • Shila

    You have the best taste. Ever.

    Thank you for inspiring me with not only one, but two (rosemary gin fizz!) cocktails that I want to serve right this moment. Or at least at my next party.

    I’m a fan of cocktails that are deliciously nuanced, refreshing, and won’t make me want to pass out after 2 sips (I’m a lightweight!). Thank you, thank you, thank you for your excellent recipes.

  • Sachie

    This sounds dangerously addictive, but I’m curious about the cider. In the UK the term refers to a sparkling alcoholic drink made from apples (or other fruit). It’s not very strong – but nevertheless I’m guessing that Andrew isn’t filling up on hot booze at Starbucks before heading to work!

    I know Japanese cider is non-alcoholic. Rather odd – a fizzy drink that tastes of sherbet rather than any natural product. So what is US cider like? Lemonade but with apples? Or is it closer to juice?

    (By the way I’m delighted to hear from other grown-ups who are lightweights – I love the odd glass of wine but living with a non-drinker means I can’t open a bottle of wine unless I’m planning to do a lot of cooking with the remnants!)

  • Radish

    Sachie – the US cider is just pressed cider, it’s like unfiltered apple juice with some of the pulp that settles, so you are supposed to shake it before pouring into a glass. It’s ridiculously delicious and addictive, but sadly, is just mostly sugar :(

  • Meg

    Oh wow, this looks fantastic! I’ve been a longtime fan of the bourbon-cider combo, but this looks even better.

    The ginger is listed in the ingredients but I can’t figure out what to do with it. Boil it with the cider? Use it as a garnish? (Then again, it’s late, I might be missing something.)

  • Radish

    Meg – you weren’t missing anything, i forgot to add it :) Thank you and it’s fixed now! Bottoms up!

  • Megan Gordon

    Ohhhh….kind of like a hot toddy with apple cider. I’m loving this idea so much. I’m a big bourbon gal and recently saw Maple Bourbon Ciders in Martha Stewart and now these….the universe is telling me something. Look fantastic; thank you for the cocktail inspiration!

  • Katie

    Peanut butter is here, but just like maple syrup it’s sold in small and ridiculously overpriced containers. On my next trip back I’ll be bringing bags crammed with maple syrup, molasses, peanut butter, and one of everything at Whole Foods.

  • Radish

    Katie – now, what do you love about the food there that we might not have here? I’m always so curious about things like that?

  • Gail {a stack of dishes}

    I love me some bourbon- and wine and rum for that matter! This looks like a delicious cocktail and I can see how your little sip turned into many. I really like your additions too. Thinking this could be good Xmas day… Cheers!

  • Scott

    I had some grade B syrup and apple cider on hand after a trip to Trader Joe’s, so I decided to have a Stone Fence last night, following the recipe to a “t”. It really was quite wonderful. Next time, however, I will use slightly less lemon juice. When reading the recipe I questioned the addition of seltzer water, but I found that it really is essential. By the time I poured my third glass, I was using almost 50% seltzer.

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  • Bonnie

    I made this for our annual family picnic, and it is a winner. No cider was available, so I boiled down apple juice, which worked fine.

    The family was unanimous that this is probably as close to “Scumble,” the notorious apple drink made in Pratchett’s Discworld, as we roundworlders are liable to get.

    Oh, and it’s an excellent cough syrup.

  • bacon

    The poem is called “Mending Wall”. Also, people that do have a cocktail in the evening aren’t “bonafide drunks”.

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