Why Apple Cider And Bourbon Make A Perfect Cocktail Pair

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When the air gets colder and the jackets get thicker, cocktail connoisseurs start tuning their palettes to darker spirits. Tequila and rum give way to whiskey and bourbon as folks trade margaritas for Manhattans. But, why does the palette start favoring bourbon as winter rolls in? Turns out, there's a scientific reason for it. As Rebel Bourbon notes, drinking bourbon physically warms you up. (Being a bourbon fan is an exercise in logistics if nothing else.) Plus, from a gastronomic perspective, the naturally smoky, spicy flavor notes of bourbon pair well with seasonal autumnal flavors like cinnamon, maple, and (of course) apple.

Why do apple cider and bourbon make a perfect cocktail pair? MasterClass describes apple cider as a sweet, fresh, largely unprocessed beverage packed with natural apple flavor. Bourbon, it says, is a strong, spiced spirit with a dark taste that goes down warm. Paired together, an apple-cider-bourbon cocktail is a rocks glass packed with fall flavor. But, as in any cocktail, the natural flavor notes of your mixer (in this case, apple cider) will benefit if you select a spirit with complementary notes. 

Picking the right tool for the job

We'll start with perhaps the quintessential cocktail in the fall mixologist's oeuvre: the toddy. Chef Molly Pisula's Apple Cider Hot Toddy is infused with light brown sugar and fresh ginger. For savory palettes, Natalka Burian's Butternut Squash Hot Apple Cider combines cider with butternut squash and cloves, anise, cardamom, dried orange slices, and cinnamon — and you can make it right in your slow cooker.

When it comes to apple cider bourbon cocktails, Taste of Home recommends adding a sprig of fresh rosemary and a lemon wheel to garnish for an unexpected, bright, citrusy, herbal pop. If this avant-garde flavor combo is your style, Henry McKenna's 10-year single-barrel bourbon offers an herbaceous flavor with notes of honey, caramel, oak, and spice. But, at over $80 per bottle, it's admittedly an investment in your home bar. Evan Williams Honey Bourbon is a comparable budget-friendly option, toting notes of honey, allspice, and smoky vanilla — and you can snag a bottle for around $15

Whatever you're sipping this season, apple cider bourbon cocktails offer a mouthful built to satisfy all autumn long.