Rachel's Table

Pitcher Full of Fall

The weather cools. Change looms.

For me, fall has always been a time of renewal–like my own personal new year. The air feels fresh. Summer’s humidity fades into cobalt blue skies punctuated with layers of bright-white clouds.

Fall in Burlington, VT

Fall in Burlington, VT

While this season of newness inspires my senses (particularly my culinary senses), it also quietly heralds a melancholy I can’t quite explain. I think I miss the constant activity of summer, but then realize the shorter daylight hours of winter’s approach are only giving me a bit more time to ponder.  More time to think about the important things in life, like relationships and balance.  I begin to miss the ease and depth of friendships with my friends who live far away (and the summer memories we made).

So what’s an introspective, fall-loving, melancholy life-ponderer to do?

What anyone would do, really. I buy some good red wine, a little brandy and combine it with a few cinnamon sticks and local honeycrisp apples. The world dwindles, slows. It becomes as small as a glass, the deck, a voice on the phone, and the refreshingly cool, ever-changing fall breeze blowing through crepe myrtle trees.


Pitcher o’ Fall

Seasonal Sangria

1 bottle red wine (I used Shiraz)

3 cups local, good-quality apple cider (for those that live near me, I got mine at Milburn Orchards by way of Filasky’s)

1/3 cup brandy

1 orange

4 honeycrisp apples, peeled and medium diced

3 cinnamon sticks

2 pinches nutmeg

2 pinches freshly ground black pepper

In a large pitcher, combine the apples with the nutmeg and black pepper.  Pour the red wine, cider, and brandy over the apples. Cut the orange in half–slice one half and squeeze the juice of the other half into the red wine mixture. Add the cinnamon sticks and orange slices to the pitcher. Let sit in the fridge for at least an hour. I sampled this after about 30 minutes and it was delicious, but tasted much more like fall after a few hours. The next day it was autumnal perfection–a seasonal cocktail to share with your closest friend.


  1. Aren’t honeycrisp apples the best? It’s really kind of embarrassing how amped up I get when they finally start showing up in my market in late September. I can’t wait to try out this drink this weekend — I never would have thought to add black pepper!

    • There’s a Spanish restaurant in Philly that has the BEST sangria. That’s where I got the idea for black pepper. Their sangria is so spicy I thought it must be black pepper. Maybe next time I’ll try a few peppercorns, but I didn’t want to over power it.

      Let me know how it turns out for you!

  2. Ahhh….your words were comforting, I feel relaxed now. Time for sangria! This is my favorite season by far. I bought some mac’s last week and have had an apple with every meal and in between snacks. An apple a day keeps the doldrums away….

    • I’ve been eating apples everyday too! Honeycrisp for now, because they are in season, but will soon be gone!

      I’m going to enjoy this season before the REAL melancholy and doldrums of winter set in…

  3. Lovely post and recipe, Rachel! I hardly ever drink Sangria, but this spiced and “appled” version sounds so delicious and autumnal. I can imagine the heady smell…

  4. Well if that isn’t just the loveliest introduction brandy has ever gotten! I feel exactly the same way about the fall. In fact, let’s just say I said this, especially when you see those first few paragraphs show up on my blog tomorrow.

  5. I’m also a ponderer! Yay us! I’m pondering right now why Honeycrisp apples are so damn expensive! Last year was a bad year for them or something at the orchard where we go sometimes to pretend we’re migrant workers for a day.

      • My brother-in-law is an apple farmer in Michigan. They got nailed last year with late frost- no harvest. They got nailed this year with perfect growing conditions – so many apples they don’t know what to do with them, can’t find pickers and the price on most varieties will go down, down, down. Farming really is feast or famine, isn’t it?

      • Farming must be so difficult! And alarmingly insecure.

        Tell your brother to call Don and his minions to help. Then Don can add “apple picker” to his many trades.

  6. Oh, HELLO. YUM! And, what a coincidence, I’m taking the family to “Apple Hill” this weekend. Honey crisps–here I come! Aren’t those the best apples ever???? Recipe bookmarked.

      • Rache, I had to come back, like the leper who was healed, to say I actually DID make this last weekend. My 24-year-old daughter and I really enjoyed it, but I put in too many apples so the experience turned into bobbing for apples more than drinking. I was surprised between the two of us we didn’t finish it all up.

      • Ha! I love your leper who was healed reference. It makes quite a big pitcher -probably enough for four or two, if you’re me.

        Do you think the recipe calls for two many apples? Or do you just need bigger glasses?

  7. This sounds delightful! Although we are going in to Spring in Australia, I have the same feeling of melancholy in the air. And I think Sangria is the perfect answer. I may switch the red wine to white wine and give this a try…

  8. Hi Rachel. Just wanted you to know that I am having a bunch of women over tomorrow night and I have the Seasonal Sangria chillin’ in the fridge. It tastes magnificent. I even added a bit of pumpkin liqueur! Thanks again for the recipe. 🙂

  9. Pingback: Great Basin Basket CSA, Autumn Week 4 (10/17/13) | Fresh Veggies in the Desert

  10. Oh my. This hits a yummy nerve. My husband and I have just discovered spiking our favorite red wine with homemade apple juice. It’s kinda like sangria, I suppose. Really good! Your recipe looks zingier.

    That photo in Vermont is luscious; Grand Isle is one our favorite places to camp. We used to drive up into NH and VT routinely when we lived up in MA. Somedays, we would hit 6 states on a day drive, just because we could. Can’t do that here in Texas…

    • Hey, Rachel! Missing your fall photos. You are probably enjoying India right now, don’t forget about us when posting of your travels. We home types like to live vicariously through others. Hoping you’re well. Cheers!

  11. Tina

    Will this be good even without the Brandy? I’d like to make it, but I don’t have any brandy on hand and don’t feel like going out! Lol

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