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We Asked 13 Bartenders: What Are the Best Apple Cocktails?

Yes, fall means indulging in apple pie and apple donuts, but there’s no reason to limit your autumnal fruit consumption to what’s on your plate. Harvest flavors work just as well in cocktails and punch as they do in pie and pastry. Ingredients like cider, Calvados, and infused syrups bring the sweet-tart freshness of apples to the glass as well. Warming brown spirits like rum, bourbon, and whiskey pair particularly well with apples this time of year, offering comforting flavor combinations that are as refreshing in the warm days of early fall as they are comforting as the weather gets colder. To gather a little inspiration for orchard-centric drinking, we asked bartenders to share their favorite apple cocktails. Here’s what they said.

The best apple cocktails, according to bartenders:

Calvados Manhattan
Jack Rose
Orchard Spritz
Spiked apple cider
Fuego Manzana
Mulled apple cider
Apple brandy and cachaça milk punch
Apple Daisy
La Gran Manzana
Golden Orchard
Apple Hot Toddy
Stone Fence

“While we enjoy fresh apple juice, house-made apple syrups, and apple infusions, we really love apple distillate spirits including American-made Applejack and French Calvados. Calvados, a delicate and aged spirit made in Northern France, plays well in a classic Manhattan. The complexity and nuance of this spirit really shine with the classic specs.” —Brandon Ristaino, co-founder and beverage director, Good Lion Hospitality, Santa Barbara, Calif.

“For a classic, the Jack Rose. It’s made with apple brandy, lemon and grenadine. Traditionally you’ll see it made with Laird’s Apple Brandy, which is how I recommend it, but you can always use Calvados or split-base it with rye or bourbon. It’s delicious.” —Guillermo Bravo, beverage director, The Kimpton Gray Hotel, Chicago

“Apple is great in the fall and winter for cocktails, but I find the biggest problem to be the browning of the apple if fresh-juiced or used as garnish. To get that flavor and keep it looking fresh, I like to use Calvados and progress into fall with an Orchard Spritz. A little Calvados, tonic, apple juice, and verjus (or any tart white wine) brings in all those warm flavors of harvest and is an amazing apéritif. A little splash of Velvet Falernum or homemade spiced simple syrup builds even more layers to that!” —Amy Racine, beverage director, John Fraser Restaurants, New York

“A classic fall favorite will always be spiked apple cider. This coming season at Market Table, we are clarifying a cocktail that showcases fresh green apple juice, Neversink apple gin, and an apple aperitif.” —Kelsey Owens, mixologist, Market Table, New York

“The Fuego Manzana was created by legendary London bartender Danny Smith in the mid-2000s. The combination of ingredients in this cocktail is a perfect balance of sweet, sour, and spice. The cooked agave notes in the tequila combine perfectly with the sweet apple flavors, while the bright, freshly squeezed lime juice and the sweet spice of red chili enhance the natural citrus flavors and pepper spice in the tequila.” —Alberto Guzman Ontiveros, food and beverage manager, Casa Salles, Tequila, Mexico

“I will always be a sucker for mulled apple cider. I went to Ball State in Indiana for my first two years of college, and the professors would keep hot cider in the back of the lecture halls for us to warm up after walking to class in mid-shin-deep snow. I think a Sauv Blanc spritz with green apple would be very bright and delightful for 100-degree September days.” —Alexandra Hebert, food and beverage manager, The Press Room at The Eliza Jane Hotel, New Orleans

“I’ve made an apple brandy and cachaça milk punch the last couple of years in the fall. The cachaça is aged in Colibri barrels that give it an unexpected gingerbread note, and the spice comes from a genmaicha chai from Rare Tea Cellar. As milk punch goes, it’s super easy to make.” —Scott Stroemer, bar director, Galit, Chicago

“My favorite is an apple Daisy, or Margarita, made by combining reposado tequila with fresh apple cider, agave, and lime juice. I garnish this drink with brûléed apple or pear, thyme sprig, and a cinnamon sugar rim. We are lucky in San Diego to have some of the best apples grown in our backyard. Because of this, I enjoy using Apple Lane Orchards cider for this cocktail. The cider is made from five different sweet and tart apple varieties.” —Charles Crisp, beverage manager, InterContinental, San Diego

“Apple season is around the corner, and it’s starting to regain a foothold in the cocktail world. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Diamondback cocktail: a stirred drink with a mix of rye whiskey, Applejack or Calvados, and yellow Chartreuse. I’ll give it an absinthe rinse if I’m making one myself.” —Caden Worely, beverage manager, Don Angie, New York

“My favorite apple cocktail is La Gran Manzana, which we serve at Mercado Little Spain. It’s a non-alcoholic cocktail made with zumo de manzana (freshly pressed Granny Smith apple juice), lemon juice, Fever-Tree ginger beer, and candied ginger garnish. I’ve even surprised some guests who say they don’t like ginger or apple, but they’ve ended up loving La Gran Manzana. The blend of flavors creates an umami-like finish that is surprisingly versatile.” —Madeline Maldonado, beverage director, Mercado Little Spain, New York

“Fall is synonymous with apple season. A great way to transition into this time of year is with a mocktail, and the Golden Orchard we serve at Botanist has all the nostalgic fall flavors. We mix clarified apple juice — store bought works just fine for the home bartender! — with an array of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, black cardamom, and fresh ginger.” —Jeff Savage, head bartender, Botanist Restaurant, Vancouver, Canada

“A Hot Toddy is my go-to when it starts to get chilly or I’m feeling under the weather. An apple Hot Toddy is a delicious variation; simply add hot apple cider to the classic recipe. Garnish with an apple slice, along with a lemon slice studded with cloves. Cinnamon, honey, apple, and bourbon are a fantastic fall combo. This is a great cocktail to make in a large batch and keep warm in a crock pot for all the upcoming seasonal gatherings.” —Billy Riordan, owner and operator, Barrio, San Francisco

“A really cool cocktail that goes all the way back to colonial times is called a Stone Fence. It’s simply apple cider mixed with rye or bourbon and Angostura bitters. I like a little splash of lemon to brighten up the recipe. It’s pretty simple: 2 ounces rye or bourbon, one-quarter ounce lemon, two dashes of Angostura bitters, and top with apple cider.” —Alex Anderson, bar manager, Takibi, Portland, Ore.

The article We Asked 13 Bartenders: What Are the Best Apple Cocktails? appeared first on VinePair.

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