Chilly fall weather calls for cozy nights, warming cocktails, and seasonal flavors like apple and cinnamon. This cinnamon apple bourbon cocktail ticks all of those boxes. This recipe is essentially like an old fashioned, but way more approachable with the addition of tart apple cider. Plus, it’s got a secret ingredient that adds a touch of cinnamon flavor. Let’s stir one up together!
Reasons to love this apple bourbon cocktail
Old fashioneds – are you curious but also hesitant about them? The booziness of spirit-forward cocktails like the old fashioned or manhattan can be intimidating, especially if you’re accustomed to using mixers with your spirits.
If that resonated with you, this recipe is exactly what you need. When it comes to ingredients and preparation methods, this recipe is similar to an old fashioned, but the addition of cider and citrus rounds out the bite of the whiskey and makes this drink way more approachable.
This cocktail is a fabulous way to use any apple cider you have lying around from an autumnal adventure to the cider mill. Before all of your newly-purchased apple cider goes bad, use some of it in a delicious cocktail!
Ingredients for a cinnamon apple bourbon cocktail
A classic old fashioned is made with sugar, bitters, bourbon, or rye whiskey, and garnished with a citrus peel. For an extra fall touch, add cinnamon-infused syrup, apple cider, and a cinnamon stick. Read along for the ingredient details.
- For the cinnamon-infused syrup – You’ll need ¼ cup water, 1 cinnamon tea bag (I used Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice), and ¼ cup brown sugar (white sugar works too).
- An orange – You’ll only need one orange slice for this recipe. Half of it will be muddled into the cocktail and the other half will be used to make an orange peel twist.
- Bitters – Think of this like a “seasoning” for your cocktail. Just a dash or two of bitters adds a ton of complexity to your drinks. I used angostura bitters, which are made from spices and botanicals. You can also experiment with other types of bitters in this recipe, including orange, black walnut, or cherry.
- Apple cider – It has to be cider, folks. Apple juice is fine on its own, but it simply will not do here. (Tolerate my cider snobbery for a sec, please?) Since it is unfiltered, apple cider is deeper in color and flavor than apple juice, which complements the other ingredients in this recipe. Depending on where you live, you should be able to find apple cider in the produce section at the grocery store. If not, Trader Joe’s sometimes sells a shelf-stable version!
- Whiskey – I used bourbon here, but the spiciness of rye whiskey also tastes lovely with apple cider. You can also use other spirits (see the Recipe Modifications section).
- A cinnamon stick – This is an optional garnish, but the aroma really adds something to the sipping experience!
Tips for the best apple cider old fashioned
An old fashioned is often built right in a rocks glass, but since there’s muddling involved in this recipe, I recommend using a separate mixing glass. Don’t be intimidated! Here’s how to make sure your apple cider cocktail turns out perfectly every time.
- Add flavor with an infused simple syrup – This may seem like a silly step, but it makes such a difference! Simple syrup is ridiculously easy to make at home – just heat up some water until steaming, then add in the same amount of sugar and stir to dissolve. You can infuse flavor by simmering fruit or spices in the water before adding sugar. My secret? I use a cinnamon tea bag! It adds deep flavor to the syrup without leaving any solids to strain out.
- Muddle fruit for extra flavor – Muddling fruit breaks it down, releasing flavorful juice and aromatic natural oils. For this cocktail, add an orange slice to a mixing glass, add bitters and syrup, then smash a few times to break down the orange. If you don’t have a muddler, use the end of a wooden spoon.
- Stir until your cocktail it’s really cold – After adding all of the cocktail ingredients and ice to the mixing glass, hold the bottom of the cocktail glass and stir until the glass is almost too cold to touch. Stirring gives cocktails a silky texture, compared to shaking, which dilutes cocktails and adds air.
The flavor profile of whiskey can vary a lot based on the type and distiller. I used bourbon here – its sweet and smoky flavor pairs well with apple and cinnamon. Spicy rye whiskey is also a tasty option. As long as it’s not super expensive or an unusual flavor like peanut butter, use whatever whiskey you’d like for this cocktail!
A perfectly made old fashioned – made with quality ingredients and stirred to perfection – can’t be beat. But for some, spirit-forward cocktails are an acquired taste. You can make an old fashioned more approachable by adding flavored simple syrup, citrus, or in this case, all of the above, plus a splash of apple cider.
- Make with a different type of whiskey – This cocktail will work with whatever whiskey you have on hand – bourbon, rye, scotch, or even flavored whiskey (apple, honey, or cinnamon) – it’s all good!
- Make it with a different type of liquor – Spiced rum or flavored vodka (apple, caramel, or orange) can also be swapped into this recipe.
- Non-alcoholic version – Use non-alcoholic bitters and zero-proof whiskey.
- Build in a rocks glass (instead of a mixing glass) – If you don’t have a mixing glass, you can build this cocktail right in the glass. Muddle your orange slice in a rocks glass with the syrup (or sugar) and bitters, then pour the rest of the ingredients in. Stir until the cocktail is cold and serve. Since you’re leaving the orange slice in, you won’t need the orange peel twist garnish.
- Make without cinnamon tea-infused syrup – No syrup (or time to make it)? No problem. You can also substitute in ½ tsp brown sugar instead. You may miss out on some of the cinnamon flavors, but your cocktail will still be delicious!
- Sweeter version – Stir in additional syrup as desired.
- Less sweet version – Omit the syrup or sugar.
Cinnamon Apple Bourbon Cocktail
- 1 small glass bowl, cup, or jar
- 1 cocktail mixing glass
- 1 muddler
- 1 bar spoon
- 1 julep strainer
- 1 rocks glass
Cinnamon Tea-Infused Syrup (optional – see notes)
- ¼ cup water
- 1 bag cinnamon tea* (I used Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice)
- ¼ cup brown sugar
For the Cocktail
- 1 orange slice
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters (or orange bitters)
- 1 tsp cinnamon tea-infused syrup (can also sub ½ tsp brown sugar)
- 2 oz apple cider
- 2 oz Bourbon (or whiskey of choice)
- ice (preferably 2 large cubes, divided)
- 1 cinnamon stick (optional garnish)
Make the cinnamon tea-infused syrup
- Pour water into a small glass bowl, cup, or jar. Microwave for 30 seconds.
- Add the tea bag to the hot water and steep for at least 5 minutes.
- Remove the tea bag and add sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Make your orange garnish
- Cut the orange slice in half. Set aside one half for muddling in your cocktail.
- Make an orange twist garnish from the other half (peel or cut the flesh away from the rind, then cut off any excess rind and clean up the edges if desired).
Build the cocktail
- In a cocktail mixing glass, add the orange slice. Add 2 dashes of bitters and 1 tsp of cinnamon tea-infused syrup. Muddle the orange, bitters, and syrup, then add apple cider and bourbon.
- Add ice (1 if using large ice cubes) to the mixing glass. Stir until the glass is cold to the touch.
- Add ice to a rocks glass. Strain the cocktail into the glass. Express the orange twist (i.e. twist it over the cocktail, bending it into a corkscrew shape) and drop it into the glass. Add a cinnamon stick and serve!
- Please note that nutrition facts are an estimate and can vary widely based on amounts and specific types used.
- What to do with extra syrup – The syrup recipe will make just over 7 tbsp of syrup (~21 one-tsp servings). Store the syrup refrigerated (in a container with a lid) for up to 1 week. Use it to make more cocktails, tea, or even fancy coffee drinks.
- Don’t want to make syrup? Substitute in ½ tsp brown sugar instead
- No cocktail mixing glass or julep strainer? Muddle the orange in your rocks glass, then remove it by hand before building the cocktail.
Looking for more cocktail recipes?
- French 75 with Empress Gin
- Kentucky Bourbon Mule
- Espresso Martini with Bailey’s
- Pomegranate Moscow Mule