You know by now that eating seasonally and locally is great for your wallet, your health, and the environment. Plus, it’s that much more exciting to eat your favorite produce after the long wait for its peak season. There’s no signifier of autumn that stimulates my senses and my appetite more than seeing heaps of locally grown apples and gallons of fresh apple cider pop up at the grocery store. Something about that first sip of tart, not-too-sweet cider just feels so right this time of year. While a simple cup of hot cider is a perfectly lovely treat once the air takes on its first chill, why not jazz your cider up with some spirits, syrups and seasonal spices? These cider-centered cocktails are a cinch to prepare and will make your house the place to be this fall.
Few ingredients complement each other as magically as apples and cranberries, both of which are harvested during the months of September and October. This dream pairing is on full display in Caroline Hurley’s Cranberry Cider Smash, which amps up this duo of apple cider and cranberry juice with a healthy dose of bourbon and a splash of maple syrup for sweetness. Be sure to serve over lots of crushed ice for a grown-up fall slushie. Get the recipe from Taste Love and Nourish.
Shrub has experienced a major surge in popularity over the past few years and for good reason. This simple mix of sugar and vinegar becomes a refreshing cocktail syrup that can be flavored with fruit, spices and citrus. Traci York of the blog Vanilla and Bean adapts this concept to fit the flavors of fall by infusing her shrub with shredded apple and toasty spices like star anise and cinnamon. She then combines the final shrub with apple cider, bourbon and club soda for a super-refreshing drink of which you will most definitely want seconds. Get the recipe from Vanilla and Bean.
If shrub just isn’t your game, but you don’t want to sacrifice that perfect bourbon and apple cider combo, take note. Rachael White’s Bourbon Apple Cider is about as easy a recipe as it comes with just four components — apple cider, bourbon, cinnamon and sugar — so be sure to use the best ingredients you can find. A garnish of orange wedge and rosemary adds understated beauty as well as amazing aromas. Get the recipe from Set the Table Blog.
Apple cider tends to air on the sweet side, so it can be fun to counter the sugar with other flavor profiles, especially some spice. Ginger is an excellent accompaniment given its natural heat and warming effect. Blogger Liz Harris of Floating Kitchen takes full advantage of these two ingredients in her Sweet Cider Ginger Cocktail, which not only features slices of fresh ginger, but also a spicy ginger beer for even more umph. Get the recipe from Floating Kitchen.
Sometimes the simplest cocktails are just what the doctor ordered. Case in point: this spiced apple cider from A Beautiful Mess. Their recipe combines apple juice or cider with the classic pairing of cinnamon and nutmeg. Topped off with a shot of rum, and you’ve got an ideal crowd-pleaser recipe perfect for your next fall gathering. Best served in your favorite mug with a cinnamon stick stirrer. Get the recipe from A Beautiful Mess.
Have you ever had a cocktail that wasn’t improved by champagne? Me either, which is why I’ve added Becky Hardin’s Apple Cider Mimosa to the top of my “to-make” list this fall. Her recipe isn’t really a recipe at all, but rather a combination of your preferred amount of apple cider and champagne. Foolproof, elegant, and beckoning to be shared over brunch. Get the recipe from The Cookie Rookie.
For all you master mixologists out there, this recipe from Jay and Leah Hall of the Gastronom Blog has your name written all over it. Their Clove and Cider cocktail is a tour-de-force of fall flavors, featuring a homemade clove-infused simple syrup, apple cider, lemon juice, bourbon and a bit of Amaro for a pleasingly bitter bite. If you really want to take this drink to the next level, check out their tips for infusing your glass with a cinnamon aroma for a powerhouse sensory experience. Get the recipe on Gastronom Blog.
If you love the sound of these recipes but you’re just not one for the DIY, never fear. Here are some of the best of ready-made Midwest hard ciders you can enjoy straight from the bottle or can.
And for extra fall fun, skip the grocery store and head to one of these nearby farms for the freshest local cider, apple-picking and pumpkins galore!
Maddie LaKind is a Chicago-born personal chef, caterer and writer. Her love of gastronomy began with an introduction to the Food Network as a teenager and has since blossomed into a deep-rooted passion. She spent her early career in the food world working at the famed Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, before moving on to other notable spots including Detroit’s Sister Pie bakery, and Floriole Bakery, Read It and Eat bookstore and The Social Table in Chicago. In her spare time, she can be found practicing yoga, hosting dinner parties for friends and sifting through her ever-growing cookbook collection. Maddie is also a supporter of PAWS Chicago. Since adopting her two cats from the shelter, she has served as a volunteer and donated her cooking services as an auction item at fundraisers.