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Core Values: Apple Bourbon Cocktail

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Core Values: Apple Bourbon Cocktail with sage leaf and cinnamon stick garnish
Core Values: Apple Bourbon Cocktail

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.

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How to Make an Apple Bourbon Cocktail – Tastes of Fall

The weather finally turned, it’s the first day of fall and I’ve been craving apple cider. So, I picked up a gallon of Huber’s apple cider (the same farm where Starlight Carl T. bourbon is made) and 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, even it if it’s not #whiskeywednesday yet. 

About Choosing a Bourbon for this Apple Cider Bourbon Cocktail

Core Values: Apple Bourbon Cocktail with sage leaf and cinnamon stick garnish
Core Values: Apple Bourbon Cocktail

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 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.

Use Sage to Garnish

Core Values: Apple Bourbon Cocktail with sage leaf and cinnamon stick garnish
Core Values: Apple Bourbon Cocktail

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.

Recommended Bar Tools

You don’t need every slick, beautiful bar tool out there, but there are several I’ll recommend. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, that does not affect the cost of the items below.) My favorite pieces usually come from the Cocktail Kingdom section of Amazon:

You may already have these bar essentials, but just in case:

Core Values: Apple Bourbon Cocktail with sage leaf and cinnamon stick garnish
Core Values: Apple Bourbon Cocktail
Apple Bourbon Cocktail with cinnamon stick and sage leaf garnish

Apple Bourbon Cocktail: Core Values

Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktailHeather Wibbels
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.
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Course Drinks
Cuisine Bourbon Cocktail
Servings 1


  • 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.
Keyword amaro, apple bitters, apple cider, bergamot, bourbon, lemon
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
By on September 28th, 2020
Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktail

About Heather Wibbels

Heather Wibbels is a whiskey and cocktail author (Executive Bourbon Steward, no less) with a passion for cocktails. She loves researching and designing cocktails, drinking cocktails, and teaching cocktails. Mostly whiskey cocktails, given her Kentucky location.

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