This Apple Cider Bourbon Cocktail is perfect for fall. Just combine apple cider, bourbon, and lemon juice with an easy ginger simple syrup for an elegant cocktail!
Why Make This Recipe
- All the Fall Feels!: Smoky bourbon, crisp apple cider, and warming ginger topped off with an apple slice and cinnamon stick for garnish. I’m all for pumpkin spice, but give me these fall flavors any day!
- Boozy or not boozy: This drink is delicious as a low-alcohol content cocktail, and you can easily turn it into a mocktail as well (instructions below). Or, lean into the bourbon and make it boozier!
- Apple Cider: Unlike apple juice, apple cider is unfiltered and often unpasteurized. As a result, it’s more perishable than apple juice and is often made from apples picked early in the season. Apple cider gives you a less-sweet, robust flavor that is perfect in this cocktail, but if all you have is apple juice, that will absolutely work!
- Bourbon: You will taste the bourbon in this drink, so don’t use a super cheap bottle that you wouldn’t ever drink neat. That said, this is not the situation for your high-end, expensive, sipping bourbon. Go somewhere in the middle, with an easy-to-find bourbon that is mid-level proof (90 to 105 proof). That way the bourbon flavor won’t overpower the drink, but won’t get lost either.
- Lemon Bitters: The bitters are optional in this cocktail, but I think they bring a beautiful balance to the drink. See below for more about bitters.
🥣 Step-by-Step Instructions for Apple Cider Bourbon Cocktail
To make the ginger simple syrup, combine ½ cup sugar, ½ cup water, and 8 ginger slices in a small saucepan.
Bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
Then strain into a jar or measuring cup. Chill until ready to use. (Note: you will have extra ginger simple syrup, which can be kept in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.)
To make the cocktail, combine 2 ounces apple cider, 1 ounce bourbon, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ½ ounce ginger simple syrup, and 1 dash bitters (if using) in a cocktail shaker. Add ice to fill shaker, then cover and shake well, until outside of shaker is very cold.
Strain into a coupe glass to serve, and garnish with a slice of apple and a cinnamon stick.
🧐 Recipe FAQs
Apple cider pairs with lots of types of alcohol. Bourbon is a particularly good pairing, but you can also mix apple cider with rye whisky, tequila, mezcal, scotch, and dark rum.
Yes! You can easily turn this cocktail into a mocktail by leaving out the bourbon. In that case, you might want to change this from a cocktail served “up” (shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass) into one on the rocks. Add the rest of the ingredients to your glass, fill with ice, then add either more apple cider or some ginger ale or ginger beer to fill the glass. Garnish with apple slice and cinnamon stick, and you have a delicious non-alcoholic version!
Bitters are typically a clear alcohol (often grain alcohol) infused with botanical ingredients such as herbs, spices, tree bark, fruit, etc. They do taste bitter, and add complexity to your cocktail, beyond the usual sweet and sour flavors. Bitters are used in several famous cocktails including Manhattans, Negronis, and Old Fashioneds. FYI, cocktail recipes often refer to “dashes” as the unit of measurement for bitters. A “dash” is 6-8 drops, or about ⅛ of a teaspoon.
👩🍳 Expert Tips
Make it for a crowd. This cocktail makes an excellent pitcher drink. Combine all ingredients in advance and chill in a pitcher. If the cocktail is cold enough, you can pour straight into cocktail glasses and garnish when it’s time to serve the drinks. If it’s not cold enough, you may want to turn this into an “on the rocks” cocktail. Fill glasses with ice, then fill ¾ of the way up with the apple cider bourbon cocktail. Top each glass off with some ginger ale, ginger beer, or just more apple cider.
Keep apple slices from browning. Making this ahead of time? If you slice your apples in advance, keep them in cold water with some lemon juice squeezed in until you are ready to use. Also, here’s a tip for getting beautiful apple circles for your garnish. Lay the apple on its side, then make thin slices all the way through the apple—voilà circles!
Serve it warm. Feeling like a warm cocktail instead? This bourbon cocktail works as a warm drink as well. Just pour the ingredients into a small saucepan and heat until just starting to steam. Don’t simmer or boil, or you will boil off the alcohol!
Looking for more cocktail ideas using apple cider? Check out this delicious Apple Cider Margarita too!
And, now that you have a bottle of bourbon around, why not use it for dessert too? This Bourbon Pecan Pie would be the perfect accompaniment to this cocktail.
Other Cocktail Recipes
I love cocktails, and love playing with adding seasonal fruits into my drinks. Here are a few of my other favorite cocktails!
If you try this Apple Cider Bourbon Cocktail recipe, I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below—I read them all, and your feedback is invaluable to me. And please follow along on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook or subscribe to my newsletter. I'd love to inspire you with more delicious, healthy, and seasonal recipes!
📖 Recipe Card
For the Ginger Simple Syrup
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 8 slices peeled fresh ginger (about ¾ ounce)
For the Cocktail
- 2 ounces apple cider
- 1 ounce bourbon
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ ounce ginger simple syrup
- 1 dash lemon bitters (optional)
- Apple slice and cinnamon stick, for garnish
- To make the ginger simple syrup, combine sugar, water, and ginger slices in a small saucepan.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Then strain into a jar or measuring cup and chill until ready to use. (You will have extra simple syrup if you are only making one cocktail.)
- To make the cocktail, combine apple cider, bourbon, lemon juice, ginger simple syrup, and bitters (if using) in a cocktail shaker.
- Add ice to fill shaker, then cover and shake well, until outside of shaker is very cold.
- Strain into a coupe glass to serve, and garnish with a slice of apple and a cinnamon stick.
You can adjust the alcohol in this drink as you wish. Add more bourbon if you like it boozy, or take it out if you want a non-alcoholic version.
Ginger simple syrup will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
This recipe can be easily adapted to be served on the rocks or even warm. To serve on the rocks, mix ingredients and pour into a glass filled with ice. Then fill glass with ginger ale, ginger beer, or more cider. To serve warm, put contents of cocktail into small saucepan and heat until just starting to steam. Don't simmer or boil, or you will boil off the alcohol!
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 199Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 7mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 0gSugar: 15gProtein: 0g
Nutrition information is provided as a general reference for users courtesy of the online nutrition calculator Nutritionix.