For this ghost story from pitmaster and YETI ambassador, Matt Pittman, you may want a stiff drink. Luckily, Matt knows just the thing: a smoky Old Fashioned or a virgin homemade apple cider. Read on for his spooky tale—and for the recipes to his favorite seasonal sips.
A few years ago, Matt and his family moved into a Victorian-style house in Waxahachie, Texas, that was built in 1896. They didn’t know much about the home’s previous tenant, but they knew the home had sat empty for more than 20 years while the owner restored it.
There are many older homes like theirs in the area, and a few are rumored to be haunted. Some people asked Matt and his family whether they thought theirs was haunted, too. This put the idea in his and his wife’s mind. Matt claimed he didn’t believe in ghosts and wasn’t a fan of ghost-hunter shows on TV. Still, a few strange occurrences in the house—such as an antique record player turning on by itself and a broken lamp suddenly lighting—prompted him to consider the possibility. And on one morning in particular, Matt encountered something so strange, he could only explain it as supernatural.
It happened at around 5am. It was still dark outside, and everyone in the house was asleep. Except Matt. He rose early to prep for a cooking segment on a local morning show. He spent the morning packing his truck with equipment for the job, making trips in and out of the house to collect his gear. While carrying one particularly heavy box to his vehicle, he left the front door open behind him. After all, everyone was sleeping, and there weren’t any pets to worry about escaping.
On the way back out from his final trip, he was able to balance a box he was carrying and swing the door shut.
But the door didn’t close. THUNK!
Matt startled at the sound. The door bounced open. He looked around to see if there was a shoe in the way. Nothing. He tried again to close it. THUNK! The door banged against the frame a second time.
He studied the doorway and saw that the deadbolt was sticking out, preventing it from latching. “What the … I didn’t do that,” Matt said to himself. He looked around, thinking perhaps someone was messing with him. But everyone was still in bed. Matt grabbed for the keys in his pocket, where he put them when he first opened the door. He was certain he didn’t take the keys out to flip the lock, because even if the door had closed while he was coming in and out of the house, it wouldn’t have locked automatically. There was no need to have extended the dead bolt. It didn’t add up, but Matt didn’t have time to give it more thought. He was nearly running late.
Matt finished loading up his truck, locked the house and continued on to the show, chalking up the mishap as just another strange moment at the Pittman household.
Matt maintains that he and his family have never felt unsafe at home—just a little freaked out or confused. And the upside to the strange occurrences is they now have some great stories for sharing around the campfire. His recommended cocktail for such tales? A smoky Old Fashioned, of course. You can always trust the Pitmaster to enhance a recipe with something smoked. For this recipe, you’ll use smoked orange slices (that you can make) and a simple smoked syrup (that you can purchase online). Or opt for a virgin homemade apple cider with fresh cinnamon sticks. These sips are sure to keep you warm, even when there’s a spooky chill in the air.
Smoked Bourbon Old Fashioned
2 oz bourbon
1/2 oz smoked simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Garnish: smoked orange peel (recommend 250 degrees for 30 mins)
- Fill a YETI Rambler tumbler with ice cubes and add the bourbon, simple syrup, bitters. Gently stir to combine.
- Express the oil of an orange peel over the glass, then drop it in as garnish.
Homemade Apple Cider
10 apples, quartered (Gala and Granny Smith work great)
1/2 orange, halved
4 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp allspice
1 whole nutmeg
1\2 C brown sugar
- Add apples, oranges and spices to a large stockpot. Cover with water and bring to a boil.
- Keep covered and lower heat to simmer for 2 hours.
- Remove the apples and mash them using a potato masher. Add oranges.
- Return to simmer for 1 hour.
- Strain, pressing solids to get all the juice out.
- Garnish with an additional cinnamon stick and serve warm.