At the cusp of fall, we all once again remember that apples exist. And suddenly we have so much work to do. There are so many different types to try at the local farmers market, so many orchards to visit, and so many pies to bake. So why not make the drinking part easy? Here are a few our favorite cocktails featuring apple cider and hard spirits. No orchard-hunting or special prep needed; just pour, mix, and sip.
Tangy Cider Fizz
If you got carried away and bought a giant jug of fresh apple cider at the pick-your-own orchard or local farmers market, invite a crowd over and make this refreshing low-alcohol drink. It's sweetened with brown sugar and features Carpano Antica, a rich and complex Italian vermouth. Lemon and seltzer keep things bright.
This cocktail bursts with three layers of apple flavor. First, there's fresh, unfiltered sweet cider, then there's warming 100-proof apple brandy, and finally, fizzy, tart hard cider. It's spiced up with cinnamon, allspice, clove, and peppercorns and balanced with lemon for brightness.
The classic Boulevardier, made Negroni-style with Campari, sweet vermouth, and whiskey, is one of our autumn go-to drinks. Adding hot cider gives you an extra layer of warming comfort. This drink recipe serves two, but we wouldn't blame you for going through a few mugs of it while curled up next to a crackling fire.
You can toast with a plain flute of bubbly, but this fizzy cocktail is a delightfully flavorful alternative, enriched with a splash of apple cider and a little Bénédictine, which offers herbal, honeyed flavors. No need to shell out for Champagne here—budget-friendly Prosecco works just fine.
The Honey Ryder
You remember the neon-colored, artificially flavored Appletini, right? This re-imagined version turns to a classic for inspiration: the Vesper, a la James Bond. Gin infused with fresh, tart apple and sweet cider is shaken with bison grass vodka and Lillet Blanc for a drink that's herbal, subtly apple-tinged, and completely delicious.
Fruit-forward without being cloying, this sparkling drink brings together pomegranates (the pom) and apples (the pomme). Hard cider is the perfect autumnal stand-in for bubbly, and Laird's Apple Brandy lends another layer of rich fall flavor. This drink has all the party cocktail bases covered: it's not too strong, it's really pretty, and it's not too sweet to drink alongside food.
Apple Crisp Cocktail
This autumnal highball brings together Laird's bonded apple brandy with bourbon that's been infused with spicy green cardamom pods. Use whichever drinkable bourbon you have on hand, and don't infuse it for longer than directed lest your bourbon start to taste like cardamom-tinged cough syrup. It's an easy-to-sip drink that's lightly spicy but still refreshing.
This classic drink is boozy but refreshingly fruity, thanks to a stiff pour of applejack sweetened with grenadine (you can make your own!) and spiced with Peychaud's bitters. Lemon helps it all go down easy...be careful!
Salty Maple Buttered Cider
Hot buttered rum is a staple of the cold months, and for good reason: butter blends perfectly into the dark, rich rum for a soothing blend. In this drink, cider is added to the mix, along with maple syrup and a scraped vanilla bean. Focus the flavors with sprinkle of Maldon salt and a little lemon juice.
The King's Waes Hail
We're not always fans of ginger liqueur, but we really like The King's Ginger, which is rich and full with a ginger-and-whiskey backbone. Here it's mixed with apple brandy, lemon, and rich Carpano Antica vermouth in a cocktail that's great with or without a frothy egg white.
Granny's Navy Grog
Taking a cue from the tiki tradition, this version of a Navy Grog layers light rum with a full-bodied dark rum, then cut the richness with freshly squeezed grapefruit and lemon juices. The juice highlights the tartness of hard cider (use Woodchuck Granny Smith or your favorite brand).
The Honeymoon Cocktail is essentially an apple brandy sour, boozy and sultry but balanced with fresh acidity. The classic cocktail combines apple brandy, sweet orange curaçao, herbal Bénédictine, and tart lemon juice.
Peppery Ginger Cider
For those who appreciate sweet apple cider but need more bite than that mellow drink provides, this warm cocktail, spiked with your favorite bourbon, offers the sharpness of ginger. To underscore that subtle burn, add cracked black pepper on the top of each mug.
Could this be your new favorite brunch cocktail? The combination of apple brandy, fresh lemon and orange juice, and maple syrup feels perfectly seasonal. Be sure to use grade B maple syrup to add the deepest flavor.
This big-batch punch marries warming applejack with piney-fresh gin. Lime and orange juices brighten it up, and muddling the orange to get the oils from the peel adds a delicately bitter complexity that straight juice just doesn't match. Make this drink ahead of time and let it chill in your fridge before party time.
Though it's only made with two ingredients—mezcal and apple soda—this is a complex drink for cocktail lovers. The smoky mezcal offers a savory quality that unfolds on your tongue, and the apple soda provides a bracing tartness that keeps things in balance.