I grew up in Michigan, which sits at a similar latitude to Hokkaido and where autumn usually hits its peak now. In much of the northern United States, October means visiting an apple orchard and getting your fill of the season’s best apple pies, apple donuts, fried apples and apple cider. This is not the alcoholic cider known in the United Kingdom, nor the clear carbonated cider known in Japan. It’s the unsweetened, unfiltered product of tossing a whole lot of apples into a press and mashing them into a cloudy, raw apple drink. Although finding true American apple cider in Japan can be difficult, the fresh pressed apple juice here is closer to cider than the sweetened American apple juice that I grew up with.

A apple-related arrival perfect for fall is the sudden prevalence of apple wine on liquor store shelves. In 1938, just a few years before producing whiskey, Nikka was making this product by adding apple brandy to apple wine and aging it in brandy barrels. While it’s great as is with ice or club soda, it brought to mind a classic cocktail from the Upper Midwest, the “Wisconsin Brandy Old-Fashioned.” Supposedly, the region’s preference for cocktails using brandy instead of whiskey is traced to the shortage of grain during wartime, the abundance of locally produced fruit and the local German population’s nostalgia for fruit wines like gluhwein and apfelwein.

For this month’s celebration of the apple, you must accept some sweetness in your cocktail if you want to enjoy any apple flavor. The herbs from the bitters and the spiciness from your choice of whiskey (each gives a different profile, but rye is very welcome) serves to temper the sweetness, and I suggest sipping the drink right after a bite of fresh apple. For October days when it’s cooler, stir it with ice and serve it up in a coupe like a Manhattan. When it’s warmer, use a highball glass and add bubbles like Wisconsinites for something more refreshing. Either way, open your windows, get cozy and enjoy the autumn air.