September 26: John Chapman

appleseedYou’ve probably heard the story of Johnny Appleseed. The tale goes that one day, John Chapman, who was born on this day in 1774, decided to leave his home and head west into the American frontier, throwing apple seeds everywhere he went, eventually gaining the nickname Johnny Appleseed…at least that’s how the story goes.

In truth, Chapman’s journey began in 1792 when he was just eighteen. He and his 11 year old brother left their Massachusetts home and headed west, living like nomads for about 13 years until they were reunited with their father when he moved out to Ohio in 1805.  Chapman’s brother stayed with his father, but Chapman soon started an apprenticeship with a local orchardist.

The exact details of Chapman’s life from this point on are vague. Several stories say he lived in Pennsylvania for a time before he began spreading apple seeds. Contrary to the contemporary image of Johnny Appleseed, Chapman didn’t throw apple seeds about willy-nilly, he actually planted apple nurseries. Chapman would plant a nursery, build fencing to protect the nursery from livestock and then entrust neighboring farmers to watch over the young plants. He’d then return every year or two to check back in on the status of the apples. And that’s it; that is basically all we know about Johnny Appleseed. We don’t even know where he’s actually buried. Seriously, there are at least three places in Indiana that claim to be his gravesite!

So, we don’t know much about Johnny Appleseed, but we do know that his apples helped many Americans enjoy a nice alcoholic beverage. See, Chapman’s apples weren’t the most delicious. They lacked the sweetness that most folks like in an apple, so Chapman’s apples were usually turned into apple brandy and cider. So, let’s toast Appleseed’s work in spreading apples (and alcohol) across America with an Appletini. While many contemporary Appletinis are made with a sour apple schnapps, we’re going to use an older recipe featuring the apple brandy Calvados.


  • 1 1/2 ounces Vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Calvados
  • 1/2 ounce Cointreau

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an apple slice and a cherry.

Tomorrow: Steve Allen starts America’s longest running comedy show.



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