A Bourbon Apple Cider Cocktail is the best way to toast the change of seasons! This drink has all the makings of a tasty fall cocktail - bourbon, apple cider and a squeeze of citrus - but subtly infused simple syrup and a shot of applejack take it over the top. The result is a smooth sipper that you'll make on repeat all season long.
While we hate to say goodbye to summer, we don't mind saying hello again to some of our fall favorites, like our cozy blankets, fuzzy sweatshirts and, of course, this Bourbon Apple Cider Cocktail.
It's the best way to toast the season!
What makes this recipe unique
- It's one of the few apple cider cocktail recipes that uses applejack. A shot of this smooth, blended apple brandy adds body to the drink while enhancing the apple cider flavor.
- Using an herb-infused simple syrup is an easy way to take a drink from average to amazing (and they are so easy to make!).
- Easy to multiply for a crowd, this simple, seasonal cocktail is right at home at any fall gathering, from tailgating to Thanksgiving.
A handful of ingredients combine to make these truly crave-worthy apple cider cocktails:
A few ingredient notes:
- Fresh apple cider and freshly squeezed lemon juice make a big difference in the flavor of this drink. Don't be tempted to use the bottled stuff as it's full of preservatives that can make your drink taste unbalanced.
- The simple syrup is infused with fresh thyme. Sounds fancy but it couldn't be easier. Plus making your own simple syrup is much less expensive than buying a bottle at the store. You can make it ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until ready to use. Check out our quick & easy guide for how to make simple syrup for all the details.
The only prep work for this drink is making the thyme-infused simple syrup. And that couldn't be easier:
Add sugar and water to a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until dissolved. Remove from heat, add thyme and steep for 15-20 minutes. Cool, strain and refrigerate.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the bourbon, applejack and apple cider.
Pour in the lemon juice and thyme-infused simple syrup.
Add bitters. Shake and strain into ice-filled glass. Garnish with apple slices and/or thyme sprigs, if desired.
The short answer is no, I don’t recommend swapping in traditional, clear apple juice for apple cider here.
Apple juice is typically sweeter than fresh apple cider because of added sugar or corn syrup so the resulting cocktail will be far too sweet.
If you absolutely cannot find fresh apple cider, you can try using the Simply Apple Pure Pressed Apple Juice and decrease the amount of simple syrup if needed. The cocktail won’t taste quite the same, but it will be much closer than if you tried to use regular apple juice.
That's easy - your favorite! A good cocktail is one you like to drink, so pick a bourbon you love. You can also use whiskey if you prefer. I used Bulleit Bourbon for this recipe.
Ready for a short history lesson? Early American colonists wanted something a little stronger than just hard apple cider, so they left barrels of hard cider outside to freeze. This process was called “jacking” because it allowed them to separate the unfrozen alcohol from the ice in the barrels. The result was a higher proof “applejack”.
Today’s version of applejack has evolved to become a blended version of apple brandy and other neutral grain spirits. The result is a mellower flavor than pure apple brandy and is a fantastic complement to the bourbon in these fall cider cocktails. The Laird family makes a variety of apple spirits and makes the applejack I used in this recipe.
Expert tips for making the best apple cider cocktail
✘ Fresh apple cider makes a huge difference in this flavor of this drink. Don't substitute clear apple juice. Cider is tangier than apple juice and is a big part in what keeps the flavors balanced.
✘ Can't find Applejack? You can swap in regular apple brandy or even Calvados in its place.
✘ The thyme-infused simple syrup is a nod to this cool weather tolerant herb. It adds lovely depth to the drink, but if you don't have time to make it, you can use regular simple syrup instead.
✘ Hosting a crowd? These drinks can easily be multiplied as a batch cocktail for your guests (I highly recommend adding these to your Thanksgiving menu!). Or tuck a few into a thermos the next time you tailgate for the big game along with a container of our crazy popular Layered Greek Dip.
More fall cocktails
Looking for more drink inspo? Don't miss our archives filled with tasty Cocktail Recipes!
Did you make this recipe? We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please rate the recipe and leave a comment below. Your feedback helps us and your fellow readers!
Bourbon Apple Cider Cocktail
- 1 ounce bourbon
- 1 ounce applejack
- 1 ounce fresh apple cider
- ½ ounce fresh lemon juice
- ½ ounce thyme-infused simple syrup (see instructions in notes below)
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add bourbon, applejack, apple cider, lemon juice, simple syrup and bitters. Shake vigorously.1 ounce bourbon, 1 ounce applejack, 1 ounce fresh apple cider, ½ ounce fresh lemon juice, ½ ounce thyme-infused simple syrup, 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Strain into ice-filled glasses and garnish with fresh thyme sprigs and apple slices, if desired.
To make the thyme-infused simple syrup:
- Combine sugar and water in small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add 4 sprigs of fresh thyme. Allow to steep for 15-20 minutes.
- Strain and refrigerate until ready to use. It will keep for up to 10 days in the fridge.
- Apple cider gives the best flavor to this drink. Don't use clear apple juice or your drink will too sweet and taste unbalanced.
- I used Laird's Applejack and Bulleit Bourbon to test this recipe but feel free to use other brands of apple brandy and bourbon/whiskey if you prefer.
- No time to make the herb-infused simple syrup? Use regular simple syrup instead.
- Recipe adapted from Gramercy Tavern.
Nutrition info not guaranteed to be accurate.