Slightly sweet, tart and deliciously smooth with a fruity apple-forward taste, this Apple Cider Cocktail is filled to the brim with cozy, warm fall flavors! This easy apple cocktail only requires a handful of pantry staples, along with apple cider and your choice of spirit – gin, bourbon, whiskey, vodka, rum or fireball! Plus, you can easily batch this spiked apple cider if you’re serving a large crowd!
This festive cider mixed drink is easy on the eyes, downright delicious, and perfect for all your fall gatherings and holiday celebrations! It’s always the biggest hit of Thanksgiving – check out this reader’s review:
Featured comment: A big hit at Thanksgiving. So smooth I drank 3 without realizing it.” – J. Pete
Update: This post was originally published in November 2016. I made edits to the photos and added a recipe video to show you how exactly how easy this apple cocktail is to make!
Hi friends! Happy thirsty Thursday! How has the second week of November been treating you? I certainly hope it has been fine and dandy! However, in case it has been anything but all that jazz, rest assured your day is about to get infinitely better! Because, today we are drinking cozy cocktails! *Clink clink*
Besides, a chilly fall night just isn’t complete without a flavorful apple cocktail (or two)!
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Apple cider cocktail: overview
You guys, this drink is THE perfect autumn sipper and it would be a fabulous addition to your Thanksgiving celebration. I mean, it’s just not a party without a cocktail or two.
Am I right or am I right?
Tart, slightly sweet, and impossibly smooth with a fruity apple forward taste, hints of warm cinnamon spice and a touch of herbaceous thyme, this gin cocktail isn’t just easy on the eyes, it is also downright DELISH.
Filled to the brim with cozy, warm, fall flavors (and booze), this cocktail just might rival your dessert!
Why you’ll love this cocktail recipe
- Easy to find ingredients! This festive cocktail is made with simple pantry ingredients, along with your favorite spirit and fresh cider!
- Customizable! You can easily adapt this recipe and use just about any base spirit (alcohol) you prefer!
- Economical! This spiked apple cider is made with minimal ingredients, so it’s a delicious, cheap drink to make on a budget!
- Apple-forward flavor! This apple cocktail recipe takes advantage of falls bounty of fresh apples and sweet cider – each sip tastes like the epitome of fall!
- Well balanced! The difference between a good and great cocktail is a delicate balance of flavors! This drink has all the components of a great cocktail – base (spirit), modifier (cider), sugar (simple syrup), acid (fresh citrus juice) and water (ice)!
- Cozy, yet refreshing! This cocktail really does taste like fall in a glass – it’s incredibly light and refreshing, yet there’s just enough cozy, inviting flavors to warm your up on a chilly autumn night!
- Make it a mocktail! If cocktails aren’t your thing, you can easily transform this mixed drink into an apple mocktail!
- Perfect for batching! It’s incredibly simple to make a big batch of this beautiful cocktail for easy and elegant Thanksgiving entertaining!
What is an apple cocktail?
An apple cocktail is an alcoholic drink containing a spirit (or several), along with apple cider or apple juice, mixed with other ingredients, such as simple syrup. Apple cocktails typically feature some sort of fresh garnish, such as apple slices, fresh thyme or cinnamon sticks. Apple mixed drinks are generally smooth in taste with a slightly sweet and fruity flavor.
What’s in an apple cider cocktail?
This cocktail is made with 5 simple ingredients to create a gin apple cider drink that is deliciously smooth and totally swoon-worthy!
- Spirit: When selecting your spirit, make sure you choose a brand that’s good quality – it doesn’t need to be top shelf, but it does need to be something you enjoy drinking! To keep this cocktail light and refreshing, I like using gin; however, you can substitute vodka, rum, whiskey or bourbon if you prefer! (Scroll down for more spirits you can use to spike up this apple cider cocktail!)
- Apple Cider: You can use any apple cider you love – both filtered or unfiltered (with pulp) cider work great depending upon your personal preference! I personally like to use fresh, organic unfiltered apple cider from a local orchard. (See below for substitutions!)
- Lime: A few splashes of acidic lime juice balances the cider and prevents the cocktail from being overly sweet. For the best flavor, make sure you use fresh limes and squeeze them yourself!
- Simple Syrup: A high-concentrated, quick homemade honey simple syrup balances the base spirit.
- Cinnamon: A dash of ground cinnamon provides a touch of warm, inviting flavor.
Substitutions and variations
- Spirit: If you prefer a darker spirit, rum, whiskey and bourbon pair beautifully with apples! (See below for a complete list of alcohols you can use in apple cocktails!)
- Apple Cider: If you prefer a stiffer drink, you can swap out the apple cider for hard apple cider! If using carbonated hard (alcoholic) cider, do not mix your cocktail in a shaker – instead opt to stir the cocktail together!
- Ginger Beer: Add a layer of spicy and citrus flavor to your cocktail by adding ginger beer (to taste). Since ginger beer is carbonated, make sure you add it directly to the cocktail glass – and not the cocktail shaker!
- Ginger Ale: Add some bubbles, minus the booze, by finishing your cocktail with a few splashes of ginger ale! (Make sure you add the ginger ale directly to the cocktail glass – and not to the shaker!)
- Fresh Ginger: To add a slightly peppery flavor and pungent aroma to your cocktail, you can add fresh ginger to your simple syrup! Instead of making the simple syrup in a Mason jar, heat the water and honey, along with a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger (peeled) in a small saucepan. Bring the contents to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the honey dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture steep for 20 minutes before straining, cooling and using the simple syrup.
- Apple Pie Spice: Try swapping out the ground cinnamon for a few dashes of apple pie spice for added flavor!
What kind of alcohol can you mix with apple cider?
Many varieties of alcohols mix well with apple cider! Darker spirits, such as bourbon, rum or whiskey, will give your cocktail a warmer taste. And clear spirits, such as gin or vodka will give your cocktail a lighter taste.
- Gin: While far from traditional, gin actually pairs beautifully with this spiked apple cider cocktail! I prefer to select a gin that is citrus-forward and leans into fruity-sweet flavors or fruit-herbal flavors.
- Vodka: If you prefer a spirit with a less pronounced flavor, vodka is a great option for you. Vodka has almost no flavor aside from the grainy, slightly spicy flavor of ethanol.
- Whiskey: There are many varieties of whiskey and each type can have dramatically different flavors and aromas. I personally prefer to using Rye or Irish whiskey to prepare apple cider cocktails. Irish whiskey has a clean flavor consisting of vanilla, orchard fruits and wood, which makes it a great choice for apple cocktails. On the other hand, Rye whiskey is similar to bourbon; however, it isn’t as sweet. It also has less body and offers a slightly spicier flavor.
- Bourbon: Bourbon is heavier in texture with a sweeter flavor than other styles of whiskey. It offers subtle notes of vanilla, caramel, cinnamon and oak. Next to gin, bourbon is personally my favorite alcohol to use with cider.
- Rum: Rum has a slightly sweeter profile with notes of toasted sugar. I personally love using a good Gold Rum for its subtle caramel flavor.
- Fireball: If you are looking to shake things up, Fireball is a great alcohol to use in apple cider! This cinnamon whiskey will give your cocktail a combination of sweet and spicy flavors!
Can I make this an apple mocktail?
You can easily make this apple cider cocktail without alcohol!
To transform this recipe into a mocktail, you can simply leave out the spirit! Or, if you want to give your apple cider mocktail a touch of effervescence, you can replace the alcohol with your favorite non-alcoholic sparkling cider! (Make sure you just top off your mocktail with the sparkling cider- versus shaking it into the mocktail- to prevent your drink from exploding!)
How to make spiked apple cider cocktail?
This cocktail recipe is easier than pie to prepare! You can mix together this drink in a matter or minutes with just a couple kitchen basic essentials (resealable jar and shaker or glass)!
- Make the honey simple syrup: Add hot water and honey to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake the water vigorously until the honey dissolves.
- Prepare the cocktail: Combine the spirit, apple cider, lime juice, honey simple syrup, and cinnamon in a cocktail shaker or pitcher with ice. Shake or stir vigorously until cold to the touch.
- To serve: Fill two glasses with ice and matchstick apples. Strain or pour the cocktail into glasses and garnish with sprigs of thyme and a cinnamon stick. Enjoy!
Tips for creating the best apple cocktail
- Taste it! Always make your cocktails to taste! The measurements in the recipe below are just my recommendations. You should use the recipe as a guideline and not a rule book. If you like a stiffer drink, use more gin. If you really love cinnamon, add more than a dash. Do you!
- Simple Syrup: You can make the honey simple syrup one of two ways. The quick way: mix the honey and water in a mason jar, or a container with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously until the honey dissolves. You just need to make sure the water you are using is HOT. The slower way: combine the honey and water in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir until the honey dissolves. Both methods end up with the same result – honey simple syrup.
- Cider: I used fresh apple cider in the recipe below, but you can use hard apple cider if you really want to get the party started. 😉
- Batch Cocktails: You can easily triple or quadruple (or more) this recipe if serving a crowd. This cocktail would look really pretty in a pitcher with the apple and thyme garnishes. Or, you could serve it party punch style in a big punch bowl! Regardless of if you choose a pitcher or bowl, this apple cocktail is always a hit at Thanksgiving parties! (See below for batching apple cocktails!)
How to make a spiked cider step by step photos
(Don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom of the page for the detailed measurements and the complete printable recipe card!)
Tips for serving apple cocktails
Are you looking for festive ways to serve your spiked apple cider? Below are tips and tricks for batching, garnishing and serving your cocktail!
Can I make this cocktail ahead of time: batching cocktails
If you are serving cocktails at a party, batching is the way to go! Batching allows you to mix a large quantity of cocktails at once (usually in a pitcher or party punch-style bowl) – which means you can host and serve your cocktails stress-free!
What you can prepare ahead of time
- Adjust the recipe: This cocktail recipe yields 2 drinks. Hoover your mouse over the “servings” in the recipe card and use the slider to scale the recipe up as desired. Double check the quantities of the ingredients to ensure everything properly adjusted. Tip: If the recipe adjusted to a decimal or a weird number, always round up to give yourself a little wiggle room!
- Mix, Measure and Set Aside: Mix the simple syrup and set aside. Measure and pour the spirit into a pitcher or serving vessel. (Always add your alcohol first incase you incorrectly measure)! Add the simple syrup to the pitcher. Measure the cider and pour it into the pitcher along with the cinnamon. Stir the cocktail together, cover and refrigerate for up to 6 hours.
- Prepare Garnish: If you plan on garnishing your cocktail with apple slices, go ahead and prep (slice) the apples. To prevent the apples from oxidizing, add 2 tablespoons of lime juice to 2 cups of water in container with a tight fitting lid. Submerge the apples in the lime water and store them in the refrigerator.
Up to one hour before you are ready to serve cocktails
- Glassware: Get your glassware ready to go. If you plan on rimming the glasses with sugar or cinnamon, do that before any guests arrive.
- Juice Limes: Cut the fresh limes and juice them into a small container. Measure out the lime juice and add it to the pitcher of cocktails. (I prefer to wait to squeeze the fresh citrus juice to prevent it from oxidizing and tasting “off”.)
- Add ice: Add a small amount of ice (to taste) to the pitcher and stir the contents well. (Be light handed when adding ice to the pitcher so you don’t water down the cocktail – you can always add more ice to the pitcher right before serving or serve the cocktail on the rocks!)
- Taste and adjust: Pour a small amount of the spiked apple cider and taste it. Adjust the batch cocktail as needed – adding more simple syrup, spirits, lime juice or cinnamon as you deem necessary.
- Chill: Place the pitcher back into the refrigerator to chill until serving time.
- Just before serving – add garnishes: Just before serving, add a handful of apple slices and a few sprigs of thyme to the pitcher.
- If you are using a sparkling element: If you are adding a sparkling element to this cocktail – such as sparkling cider, hard cider, ginger beer or ginger ale – do not add it until your guests have arrived! If you add it too soon you will lose all the effervescence!
How to serve a spiked cider cocktail?
There are two different ways I recommend serving your apple cocktail depending upon your personal preference, either ‘on the rocks’ or ‘up’.
- On the rocks: For an apple cocktail on the rocks, serve your drink in a cocktail glass with ice. Serving your drink on the rocks (poured over ice) has the benefit of keeping your cocktail cold; however, it will slightly dilute it over time!
- Up: To serve your drink up, shake or stir the cocktail with ice and then strain the cocktail into your glass to keep the ice out of the glass. Serving your cocktail up ensures your drink will be chilled and your cocktail won’t dilute over time.
Take-away: Deciding whether to serve your cocktail on the rocks or up completely depends upon your personal preference!
What garnishes to use
The easiest way to add a little pizzaz to your cocktail is through garnishes! Below are a few of my favorite ways to garnish this apple mixed drink!
- Apples: Fresh apples are the most obvious garnish! I prefer to slice my apples into thin matchsticks for a pretty flare! (See below for different information on the varieties of apples you can use in your cocktail!)
- Cinnamon Sticks: A stick of fresh cinnamon adds a beautiful touch!
- Fresh Herbs: My go to is a sprig of fresh thyme; however, rosemary will work as well!
- Sugar Rim: Try rimming your cocktail glass in sparkling sugar for a festive flare!
- Cinnamon Sugar Rim: Swap the sparkling sugar for cinnamon sugar if you prefer a warming, sweet flavor!
What are the best varieties of apples for cider cocktails?
Fresh apples add a delicious touch of fruity flavor and provide a beautiful aesthetic in cocktails! When it comes to fresh apples in a cocktail, anything goes! If you are looking for a robust flavor and pretty presentation, use a combination of different varieties of apples. But, whatever apple you chose, be sure to pick a variety you actually enjoy eating!
Apples to use in a cocktail
- Golden Delicious apples are cheery bright yellow in color with a mellow, sweet flavor.
- Red Delicious apples are similar to golden delicious; however, they are less sweet in flavor and (obviously) red in color.
- Honeycrisp apples are incredibly juicy with a moderately sweet and subtly tart flavor.
- Gala apples are aromatically-sweet and feature a pretty pink-orange stripe atop a yellow background.
- Pink Lady apples have a unique sweet-tart flavor and are named for their bright pink skin.
- Gala apples are aromatically-sweet and feature a pretty pink-orange stripe atop a yellow background.
- Granny Smith apples have a delicious tart flavor and are pale green in color! I love pairing them with a sweeter variety of apples.
What goes well with apple cider?
This crisp, refreshing spiked cider pairs well with a wide variety of foods – from breakfast items and light appetizers to dinner dishes and delectable desserts!
11 foods that pair perfectly with cider cocktails
- Apples: Pair your cider cocktail with more apples, like these apple butter meatballs, apple and cheddar soup, apple quick bread, cinnamon apple granola, and cider donuts,
- Donuts: An ice cold, spiked apple cider is a delicious way to wash down a warm, sugary doughnut!
- Pancakes and Waffles: Forget the bloody Mary’s and mimosas! Do your next fall brunch in style – serve fluffy pancakes and crisp waffles with an endless cider bar!
- Cheese: Cheese boards are an easy option when entertaining! Cider pairs great with stronger cheeses, such as cheddar, camembert and blue cheese!
- Salads: Serve a big grain salads or warm kale salads with a cider cocktail for a light, yet satisfying dinner!
- Chicken Pot Pie: Heavy, creamy pot pie is great with a light apple cocktail!
- Turkey Dinner: No holiday table is complete without the delicious pairing of a golden brown turkey and an apple cocktail (or two!)!
- Pork: Pork chops naturally pair well with apples, making cider a classically delicious option!
- Creamy Pasta: This refreshing cocktail is the perfect contrast to rich pasta!
- Apple Pie: A light cider cocktail is the perfect complement to buttery, flakey bites of apple pie!
- Ginger Cookies: Ginger and apples go hand in hand! Try serving your apple cider mixed drink with ginger cookies for a delicious sweet dessert pairing!
Toast the gifts of Thanksgiving and the ones you love with this Spiked Apple Cider Cocktail!
Until next week friends, Cheers – to quenching your Thursday thirst.
Recipe testimonials: What people are saying about this cocktail
Here’s what readers are saying about this smooth spiked apple cider cocktail recipe!
- “This drink was a great hit at my family’s Thanksgiving get-together!!” – Olivia
- “Made this tonight for Thanksgiving and my guests LOVED it! Perfect balance of sweet and sour!” – Fran
- “This cocktail is super delicious! I will definitely be enjoying it through the holiday season!” – M.
More fall and winter cocktails!
If you are searching for more cozy cocktails, check out these delicious favorites:
- Caramel and Chocolate Martini
- Holiday Cocktail Recipe
- Cranberry Margarita
- Sugar Cookie Cocktail
- Pumpkin Martin Recipe
- Fall Bourbon Cocktail
How to make the best Apple Cocktail recipe and video👇
Apple Cider Cocktail
- Jar with a Tight-Fitting Lid (such as a Mason Jar)
- Cocktail Shaker
- Cocktail Glasses
Honey Simple Syrup
- ¼ Cup Honey
- ¼ Cup HOT Water
- 2 Thyme Sprigs
- 1 Apple – cut into matchsticks
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
- Make the honey simple syrup: Add the HOT water and honey to a mason jar and shake vigorously until the honey dissolves.
- For the cocktail: Combine gin, apple cider, lime juice, honey simple syrup, and cinnamon in a cocktail shaker or pitcher with ice. Shake or stir vigorously until chilled.
- To serve: Fill two glasses with ice and matchstick apples. Pour the cocktails into glasses and garnish with sprigs of thyme and a cinnamon stick. Enjoy!
- Make your cocktail to taste: Always make your cocktails to taste! The measurements in the recipe below are just my recommendations. You should use the recipe as a guideline and not a rule book. If you like a stiffer drink, use more gin. If you really love cinnamon, add more than a dash. Do you!
- Simple Syrup: You can make the honey simple syrup one of two ways. The quick way: mix the honey and water in a mason jar, or a container with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously until the honey dissolves. You just need to make sure the water you are using is HOT. The slower way: combine the honey and water in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir until the honey dissolves. Both methods end up with the same result - honey simple syrup.
- Apple Cider: I used fresh apple cider in the recipe below, but you can use hard apple cider if you really want to get the party started. 😉
- Batching: You can easily triple or quadruple (or more) this recipe if serving a crowd. (To adjust the measurements of the ingredients - hoover your mouse above the number of servings and use the slider to adjust the number of servings!) This cocktail would look really pretty in a pitcher with the apple and thyme garnishes. Or you could serve it party punch style in a big bowl!
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