Drink your apples. How bartenders are putting their spin on the forbidden fruit.

Photo by fotoaloja

Photo by fotoaloja

A Guide To Drinking Your Apples

How bartenders are putting their spin on the forbidden fruit

Fall is upon us, and there’s no better time of year than now to get our fill of apples in — right down to what’s happening in our drinks. Bartenders around town are finding novel ways to incorporate the autumnal fruit into our coupes, steins, and tallboys, quickly dispelling a certain 90s association that left us thinking all apple cocktails would and could ever be were cloying martini glassfuls of shockingly green juice. Whether they’re showing up as the base spirit or as the finishing touch, here are three ways the pros are taking on apples for their tipples — making that whole “apple a day” adage much more easy to swallow.

Apple Brandy

“A lot of people hear ‘apple brandy’ and assume it will be sweet, like it's Apple Pucker or schnapps or something, when really it's like cognac, or even whiskey. But in addition to the wood, vanilla, and spice flavors of whiskey or cognac, apple brandy or calvados lend some fruitiness and notes of baking spice.” — Mark Brinker, Barrelhouse Flat

When It Works:

“It works well in many applications, both shaken and stirred. I feel like it's especially good when paired with complimentary fruit flavors, such as grenadine or apricot liqueur. It also plays very well with vermouth or other aromatized wines, port, and sherry.” — MB

When It Doesn’t Work:

“With anything, if it's mixed badly and unbalanced it probably won't taste good. It’s especially appropriate for fall and winter. It's a harder sell in the middle of summer, but you could still easily make a light refreshing drink with it, just as you could with whiskey or a dark rum by balancing them against lighter ingredients.” — MB

Try This One: St. George California Reserve Apple Brandy, 43% ABV

This limited-release, barrel-aged apple brandy is made from a blend of local apples sourced from a single orchard within 150 miles of the distillery. Aged in French and American oak for up to three years, it offers notes of soft honey and cinnamon.


“Cider adds autumnal orchard and spice flavors. It is nice because the flavors come through with subtlety. It also adds carbonation, which can brighten and lighten the cocktail. Lastly, it can lessen the sweetness of your base combination of liqueur, spirit and juice.” — Jessica Hart, The Winchester

When It Works:

“Cider works in a cocktail when you want to thin out the boozier notes by adding dry, orchard fruit flavors.” — JH

When It Doesn’t Work:

“Cider does not work in a cocktail when you add it to an already very boozy combination. It often also doesn't work in a highball cocktail because it is more viscous and concentrated than traditional mixers, such as tonic or soda.” — JH


Try This One: Shacksbury 2014 Classic, 6.0% ABV

This dry, slightly sparkling cider was made with nine apple varieties grown in Cornwall, Vermont and Herefordshire, England. Expect bold and earthy flavors that can hold their own when met with boozier counterparts.

Apple Bitters             

“Apple bitters lend an extra kick of dryness and flavor to cocktails. If a cocktail is too sweet, this also tones down the sweetness a bunch.” — Jon Ruiz, AMK Kitchen Bar

When It Works:

“Apple bitters work in cocktails when any spiced or fall ingredients are prevalent. They also go very well with any gins and Champagne cocktails.” — JR

When It Doesn’t Work:

“They do not work in cocktails using beer or anything with bitter notes to it. This will make the cocktails very unsavory and give customers a very unpleasant drinking experience.” — JR

Try This One: BAR KEEP Organic Apple Bitters

This bottle provides warm notes of caramelized apple and spice, deeming it a great fit for any concoction calling for darker spirits (think whiskey, rum and brandy). 

Apple Liqueur

Apple liqueur can be served cold or hot, drank by itself or in a cocktail, and is incredibly affordable.  It’s perfect for fall and winter and simply delicious. -Dejorn Huffman, Tenzing Wine & Spirits

Try This One: Journeyman "O.C.G." Old Country Goodness

O.C.G. stands for Old Country Goodness. And that’s exactly what this secret family recipe stands for. A unique combination of Michigan Organic Apple Juice, Michigan Organic Cider, and our W.R. White Whiskey makes for a drinking experience like no other.

Best served hot or cold.