As soon as September hits I start craving apple bourbon cocktails in any form. This combination includes apple cider, a bergamot liqueur and amaro as well as a little extra kick from some bourbon to round out vanilla and sweet caramel notes in the cocktail.
The weather finally turned, fall is in the air and I’ve been craving apple cider. To fill my craving I picked up a gallon of apple cider at Huber’s Orchard & Winery which is also home to Huber’s Starlight Distillery. After picking up some Starlight Carl T. bourbon I came home to see what could make a cider bourbon drink a little more interesting.
I found that I was craving the flavors of a hot toddy, but in an iced form. I wanted to use Italicus bergamot liqueur because it reminds me of Earl Gray tea – something I love to use for toddies. Amaro Nonino was a great addition to cut down on the sweetness of the apple juice, and it pulled out some of the deeper, earthy notes of the bourbon.
I added a dash or two of apple bitters and found a happy balance between herbaceous and sweet in this apple bourbon cocktail. I added just a splash of lemon just to sharpen the cocktail. And there I found a happy balance.
With a few sage leaves and a cinnamon stick for garnish, I had a nice afternoon tipple.
For any bourbon cocktail, half of the battle is finding a bourbon that melds well with the flavors of the other elements without overtaking them. The Starlight Carl T. bourbon is a little young and aggressive with some grassy notes to it that went well with the apple cider. It’s a great sipper on the rocks for me and has fruity notes that open up with the addition of a bit of water.
How to Serve the Core Values Apple Bourbon Cocktail
For this cocktail, I would serve it over one large cube rather than chunks of ice as I did here so that more of the bourbon shines through longer without dilution. Live and learn. I did choose to put it in a large wine glass for the picture, but it would look equally beautiful in a double old fashioned with a large cube.
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I had the idea to use sage because I was thinking of an apple pork dish I had that used sage in the sauce. The savory aromatics of the sage cut down the sweetness of the apple in the dish. Here I used the sage to decrease some of the sweet aromas from the apple cider while tying to that young, almost grassy note I get from the Starlight bourbon.
Putting the leaves in a cinnamon stick was just a beautiful, happy coincidence that added a push of cinnamon aromas to the drink as you brought it to your lips.
If you don’t have the Italicus, this is great with just the Amaro Nonino as something to give it a little more depth and round out the flavors. However, the Italicus is a sweet bergamot liqueur, and not drying in the way that Earl Gray tea can be on its own. If you don’t add the Italicus, you may not need as much Amaro Nonino.
Now, if you’re missing Amaro Nonino, any lighter Amaro would do here. If you go with a deeper, darker Amaro you might have to cut back on the amount to make sure it doesn’t make the cocktail too earthy.
Apple Bourbon Cocktail: Core Values
Step into a warm fall afternoon with a refreshing apple cider cocktail combining bourbon, apple cider, bergamot liqueur, Amaro and a dash of apple bitters. The flavors combine into the lovely taste fall’s freshest apples with the baking spices of bourbon and the earthy notes of the amaro and bitters.
- 1.5 oz Starlight Distillery Bourbon
- 1 oz Italicus Bergamot liqueur
- 3/4 oz Amaro Nonino
- 4 oz fresh pressed apple cider
- ¼ oz lemon juice
- 2 dashes apple bitters
- Garnish: sage leaves and cinnamon stick
- Combine bourbon, bergamot liqueur, Amaro Nonino, lemon juice, cider, and apple bitters in a mixing tin.
- Add ice and shake until combined and the shaker is frosty.
- Strain into a double old fashioned glass with a large ice cube.
- Garnish with sage leaves and a cinnamon stick.