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Classic Cocktails of the City: Los Angeles’s Appletini Cocktail (1996)

Classic Cocktails of the City: Los Angeles

The Appletini cocktail was a drink created in Los Angeles by Lola’s West Hollywood restaurant bartender Adam Seger in 1996. Los Angeles’s Appletini cocktail is in America’s top ten contributions to the cocktail world.

The 1990s was a different time for a lot of things, including cocktails. Today cocktails focus on naturally sourced ingredients; the original Appletini of the 1990s was about as natural as Baby Spice in the Spice Girls’ red and blonde streaked hair. In other words, the bright green 90s drink was not very subtle at all.

Bright green artificial apple flavors were the whole point of this cocktail. It was born in the era before September 11 and even the internet and social media. The cocktail features a famous scene in The Social Network. Mark Zuckerberg declared Appletini his company’s official drink.

It seemed like every restaurant in the 90s had to have it on their drink menu. Was it because Apple as a company was on everybody’s radar at the time? (Maybe.) In the 1990s, Los Angeles’s cocktail personified California and was adopted by bartenders around the world. For a few years in the late 1990s, it was the drink for Fridays after work at Lola’s West Hollywood.

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Image Credit: appletini by remy sharp is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The History of Los Angeles’s Appletini

Appletini was created in 1996 by Lola Restaurant bartender Adam Seger with Lola’s owner Loren Dunsworth (a.k.a. Lola). With one of L.A.’s first martini menus, the restaurant became a popular destination for after-work drinks and signature cocktails in the mid-to-late 1990s.

The drink was first known as the ‘Adam’s Apple Martini’ because Adam was the bartender who created it. It was a mouth-puckering sweet and sour taste. As it came to be known, the appletini’s principal ingredients are vodka, a radiant, possibly radioactive green schnapps that gives the drink its signature hue and melted Jolly Rancher taste.

Before September 2013, you could find Lola’s restaurant at 945 N. Fairfax Avenue in West Hollywood. Loren Dunsworth told The LA Times in a 2012 interview (12/29/2012):

“We had a bottle of Apple Pucker and a bottle of Ketel One and we combined the two and I thought, ‘It tastes just like a Jolly Rancher. We sell ludicrous amounts of apple martinis. I don’t know of any craft cocktails that people seek out the world over like they do the apple martini. I think it makes people happy.”

Unfortunately, like all popular cocktails, it became a little too popular. Once Lola’s restaurant closed down back in 2013, you may find an Appletini on the menu at Steakhouses, where it remains popular today in Los Angeles. Of course, you can always ask your bartender to make one for you. 

Sometimes bartenders add a dash of triple sec, sirope, or a sweet-and-sour mix, which acts as a push-up bra for a flavor that’s already the opposite of subtle.

How to make your own Appletini

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Image credit: ‘Appletini round David Deas by Adam Comer.ford by CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Try this modern take on the classic Appletini. Although often called an Apple Martini, it is not a true martini at all, but it’s still being ordered because it’s fun to drink. Today’s bartenders use fresher and more natural ingredients, but here is the original recipe I use to make at home:

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka (regular or apple-flavored)
  • 1/2 ounce green apple schnapps
  • 1-ounce apple purée (or apple juice)
  • 1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

Garnish

  • 1 or 2 thin slices of apple or maraschino cherry

Shake the liquid ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker—strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with apple slices.

Final thoughts on Los Angeles’s Appletini

The modern version is not so green in color nor “green” in taste. Although I prefer the apple-on-apple flavor of the original, this 1990s style of drink is a lot sweeter than most cocktails made today.

It’s easy to see why Los Angele’s Appletini is due a comeback any day now. Martinis are good. Check. Apple is a flavor that everybody recognizes and enjoys. Check. And everyone looks back fondly on the 1990s. Check. Expect to see a revised and retooled version of the Apple Martini in a bar near you soon.

Modern Appletini. Photo by Polly Alexandra on unsplash