3rd Annual Virtue Cider Stone Fence Competition & Mitten Drive – Recap

This past Sunday Sean and I went to Virtue Cider’s Stone Fence Competition at The Chicago Athletic Association’s Stagg Court – A renovated basketball court.
IMG_4717Stone Fence is a simple cocktail that has been around since the late 1700s. More traditional versions are made with a couple of ounces of rum, brandy or bourbon mixed with hard cider. The cocktails we had this day were anything but ordinary.
The creations had to use The Mitten, Virtue’s bourbon barrel-aged cider as well as local ingredients from Koval Distillery and Seasons Soda.
Here is the line-up of what we sampled.
Millet is a grain typically found in birdseed. The millet is aged in new American oak, and the millet provided an excellent balance between apple and whiskey flavors.
IMG_4708The Berkshire Room had our favorite millet cocktail. The sour apple inspiration was apparent in the drink. The cocktail was very tangy and sharp (from the addition of bitters). We could taste the blend of whisky and apple throughout the drink.IMG_4710
The Broken Shaker at Freehand Chicago‘s cocktail was a close second favorite.
A culinary approach was taken when conceptualizing this cocktail. The use of fresh herbs and green apple juice resulted in a fresh and refreshing drink (something to make us forget about Chicago winters), reminiscent of a crisp boozy apple salad.


Best Intentions‘ cocktail was inspired by the traditional long drink, but with more alcohol. Liqueurs were used to increase the spice and sugar content and some carbonation was added to help transform the cider into what was more traditional in the 1700s. The addition of the millet added a spirit forward finish.
Rum was the original spirit used in the Stone Fence – when the drinks consisted of a shot or two of rum with a glass full of cider. These rum based cocktails are boozier than the original, but the traditional features of it shine through.
IMG_4705The Northman‘s cocktail was our favorite rum-based drink. The drink was one of the more traditional takes on Stone Fence. The cherry and vanilla flavors highlighted the cherry bourbon notes in The Mitten, and the higher ratio of cider to rum (~5:2) allowed the cider to stand out.
Revival Food Hall was the other rum based cocktail. The spirit forward stirred cocktail blended chocolate, caramel, and orange with the apple flavors.IMG_4706
The Rye gave the cocktails a “stiff drink” feel, and the whiskey flavors tended to be more pronounced than the apple.
IMG_4709Billy Sunday had our favorite Rye-based cocktail. The Pine Apple Punch was inspired by the evergreen trees of Michigan (e.g., Spruce, Pine). The addition of the Pine and Spruce Tincture added herbaceous flavors to the cocktail, which had light apple flavors and finished with the taste of rye.
 Au Cheval‘s cocktail was a unique blend that evenly balanced citrus notes and spice notes. The high acid lemon and lime and light apple flavors were mellowed out by vanilla, black licorice, and rye.IMG_4712
The Koval Bourbon is a blend of corn and millet and when used in the cocktails it provided a nice balance between the spirit forward whiskey and cider.
IMG_4714Dusek’s had our favorite bourbon cocktail. Inspired by oatmeal cookies, the cocktail used bourbon infused with steel cut oats. The raisin and cinnamon syrup added a touch of sweetness that balanced nicely with the cider and bourbon. With every sip, we could taste bourbon, apple, and oats.  IMG_4715
“People’s Choice” winner  Frontier Chicago‘s  winter inspired cocktail was clean and simple. The fennel apple jam and lemon brightened up the warm flavors of the bourbon and cider. The apple flavors, while light, stood up to the bourbon.




Table, Donkey and Stick was the only one to use vodka resulting in a very spirit forward and clean cocktail. The wheat and malted barley vodka had subtle vanilla flavors that were brought out a bit by The Mitten. The citrus flavors brought a bit of acidity to the cider producing a very crisp cocktail.IMG_4713
Mezcal is an agave-based spirit (all tequilas are mezcal, but not all mezcals are tequilas) that often has smokey flavors and fruity aromatics. The use of the Mezcal tends to transform the cider more than the other spirts producing a slightly more complex, spirit-forward cocktail.
IMG_4716Green Street Smoked Meats had our favorite Mezcal cider which was inspired by not being in Chicago. The smokiness of the Mezcal enhanced the bourbon and vanilla notes of the Mitten. The cayenne and the ginger added spiciness that lingered on the finish.IMG_4707
Grand Prize Winner! Longman & Eagle’s cocktail was a blend of Mezcal and Rye. This cocktail was the most complex drink. The mezcal and chai added smokey flavors to the Mitten. And that, with the addition of the rye, made for a very sprit forward cocktail that was counterbalanced with the sweetness from the apple caramel gel.