Like changing foliage and pumpkin spice, apple cider is one of the most beloved hallmarks of autumn. Whether mixing with a plain old nonalcoholic cider or its boozy, fermented sibling, bartenders are channeling the seasonal flavor in fresh takes on classics as well as new elixirs ranging from a fizzy rum highball to a Southern-spiced bourbon drink. This fall, raise a glass to cool weather with these nine apple cider cocktails to try in bars right now. Be warned: These apples aren’t keeping any doctors away.
1. Hotel California (Wassail, New York City)
Visit Gotham’s renowned cider bar, fittingly located on Orchard Street, to try head bartender Jade Sotack’s tropically minded concoction that laces El Dorado 3-year-old rum with pineapple and lemon juices, house-made matcha syrup and sweet Giffard Abricot du Roussillon, an apricot liqueur. The bright drink is topped with whichever cider the bar has on tap; and true to co-owner Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler’s focus on regional producers, it’s currently the Shacksbury Millrace, a dry green-apple-whispered number from Vermont.
2. The Northern Spy (The Northman, Chicago)
The Windy City may be famed, first and foremost, for its beer, but it recently entered the cider game with the early 2016 opening of this much-anticipated Lincoln Square spot. Touting a selection of more than 100 globally sourced ciders, the bar aims to bring higher exposure to the oft-misunderstood genre by showcasing a wide variety of styles and applications for the drink. Inspired by a recent trip to Vermont, bar woman Ambrosia Borowski sources all of the ingredients for this cocktail from the state: Barr Hill Old Tom gin is shaken with a splash of maple syrup, topped with Citizen Cider Wit’s Up—made with the namesake Northern Spy apples and fermented with Belgian Wit yeast—then served up with an orange peel.
3. Orchard (Blind Lady Tavern, Columbus, Ohio)
Taking over what was once Columbus’ oldest running bar, proprietor Seth Laufman evokes a turn-of-the-century saloon atmosphere at his pre-Prohibition-themed spot. While seemingly rooted in classics, the menu expands to include new creations, including a gin-and-cider number by bartender Alex Chien. Served tall over ice, the drink offsets Bombay Sapphire gin and apple cider with Amaro Montenegro, a barspoon of maple syrup and a splash of Angostura bitters. It’s garnished beautifully with an Angostura-stained apple fan and cracked black pepper.
4. Skid Row Punch (Canon, Seattle)
For those drinking in groups this fall, this large-format recipe by Jamie Boudreau makes for a drinkable pour that still packs a boozy punch. The bowl is fortified with Laird’s apple brandy, bourbon and Becherovka (a 200-year-old herbal Czech liqueur), then sloshed with apple cider, orange juice, splashes of lemon and Angostura bitters. It is garnished with whatever fruits are in season—for fall, apple slices—and serves four people.
5. Boyfriend Weather (Cerulean, Indianapolis)
This cheekily named egg white coupe by Sam Gillis nods to the seasonal tradition of getting cozy and cuffing it up with a significant other in anticipation of the colder months. Served at the bar in the Alexander hotel’s fine-dining mainstay, the drink tempers Rowan’s Creek straight bourbon with an equal part of fresh apple cider, layering that mix with splashes of fragrant St. Elizabeth allspice dram, nutty Wilks & Wilson Adelaide’s orgeat and just a whisper of Frangelico. It’s shaken with egg white to frothy perfection and then garnished with a float of Angostura, grated nutmeg and cinnamon.
6. Baked Apple (Repour Bar, Miami)
Take a respite from the usual South Beach party scene at this relatively relaxed charmer housed within the Albion Hotel. Behind a sleek white-marble bar, drinks man Isaac Grillo whips up a simple, fizzy refresher with Afrohead Briland 07 rum, crisp apple cider and a splash of ginger beer—the perfect sip to preface a sunny day at the beach.
7. Spicy Apple Orchard (Gilbert’s Social, Jacksonville, Fla.)
Florida rising star and Top Chef alum Kenny Gilbert helms this polished Southern kitchen, specializing in upmarket takes on comfort fare. Wash down hearty smoked turkey and dumplings or mac and cheese with similarly Southern-inflected cocktails like this jalapeño-spiced whiskey-and-apple glug devised by Gilbert along with bar man Mark Rivenburg. The recipe calls for equal-parts Canadian whisky and apple cider, sweetened with an allspice simple syrup, brightened with lemon juice and spiced with sliced jalapeño peppers. The finishing touch is a splash of Angry Orchard beer and a garnish of fresh basil leaves.
8. Beetlejuice (Bacchus Bar, Portland, Ore.)
Housed in PDX’s newly revamped Hotel Vintage, the Bacchus Bar offers whimsical cocktails to accompany the array of big-kid-friendly entertainment including shuffleboard, pool and classic video games. Bartender Bryan Galligos doubles-down on the playful spirit with the name of this sip, but the spirit inside, a calvados apple brandy, is less rambunctious, especially when soothed with apple cider, a rosemary-infused simple syrup, lemon juice and fragrant basil leaves. A garnishing sprig of smoked rosemary evokes the nostalgia of sipping hot cider around a fire, but a pop of tartness from the lemon provides some brightness.
9. Carciofi Shandy (August Laura, New York City)
At this newly opened Italian-accented cocktail bar, the classic cinnamon-and-cider combination gets an Italian twist with a heady base of Cynar, a sweet but herbaceous artichoke-based liqueur. In this take on an apple cider shandy, drinks maven Sofia Present employs a house-made cinnamon syrup for sweetness and gives the drink a pop of lemon juice for freshness. Rounding out the cocktail is a splash of spicy ginger beer.