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Best Ever Apple Manhattan is Better than Pumpkin Spice Anything

5 from 1 vote

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Apple Manhattan in a vintage coupe glass with apple fan garnish
Apple Manhattan

Get all the tastes of fall in one sip with this easy and elegant Apple Manhattan recipe. Featuring bourbon, apple brandy, vermouth, and bitters this autumn whiskey cocktail keeps the flavor profile of a true Manhattan cocktail while elevating the flavors of fall with apple brandy and fall-themed bitters. The two tweaks to a standard Manhattan recipe, adding in a touch of applejack or apple brandy, and concentrating on baking spice notes in the bitters makes this a beautiful sip on a fall evening.

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What is Applejack or Apple Brandy?

Apple Manhattan in a vintage coupe glass with apple fan garnish
Apple Manhattan

Let’s start with the basics. Applejack is a form of apple brandy, a spirit made from fermented and distilled apples. It’s made in a way where excess water from distillation is removed in order to increase proof and build up the flavor profile of the spirit. Traditionally, Applejack was made by jacking – freezing a spirit to a cold enough temperature that the water in the distillate would freeze and could be removed from the spirit – increasing proof and flavor. This kind of process is also called fractional freezing.

Historically, this was done with large batches of fermented apple cider left out over the winter. As the months got colder and the temperature drop farmers in the colonial era would skim the ice from the surface of the cider and it would increase in proof over time.

Modern methods of Applejack production typically don’t use that method to remove water from the distillate, and today’s Applejack is typically a blend of apple brandy and neutral grain spirits.

For this cocktail, we want to stay away from the low-quality apple schnapps and use a quality apple brandy. I typically use Copper & Kinds Floodwall aged brandy or Laird’s AppleJack – usually their bonded version for a high bump of proof and flavor.

 Let’s get back to our apple brandy drink recipe!

What is a Manhattan Cocktail?

Often confused with an Old Fashioned (see my article on the difference between an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan here), a Manhattan is typically made with a whiskey base spirit, a ratio of sweet vermouth and bitters. Every drinker has a preferred whiskey, bitters, and ratio, and matching up the base spirit to complementary bitters flavors can be a whiskey drinker’s heaven of aromatic experience.

If you want to know more about the history of the Manhattan cocktail, head here at How to Make a Classic Manhattan Cocktail.

Flavors in an Apple Manhattan Cocktail

Apple Manhattan in a vintage coupe glass with apple fan garnish
Apple Manhattan

While staying close to the template of a traditional Manhattan cocktail, this cocktail reduces my usual ratio of vermouth to whiskey and adds in some apple brandy – specifically Laird’s Apple Jack 86 or bonded. Both are apple brandies that are less sweet and have a flavor reminiscent of bourbon or whiskey rather than a sweet apple brandy. The resulting apple and whiskey cocktail lets the drink stay firmly in camp Manhattan while adding a subtle apple flavor to it.

Connecting with those flavors, I added Bittermen’s Tiki bitters, redolent of baking spices and the spice flavors of a great tiki drink, and also Old Forester’s Smoked Cinnamon bitters. Both bitters make me think of the spice in apple pie warm from the oven. 

How to Make an Apple Brandy Manhattan

Like any classic Manhattan, this fall Manhattan cocktail is made by adding the applejack or brandy, whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters to a cocktail mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass or martini glass and garnish with a beautiful apple fan. 

Adjusting Flavors for this Lovely Apple Whiskey Cocktail

I built this cocktail to my preference – something dry, and still very bourbon-forward. If you prefer a sweeter presence of apple, increase the ratio of applejack to bourbon or rye. If you want a cocktail that’s smoother, look for a sweet apple brandy with a lower proof and a little more time in the barrel.

If the apple brandy is too sweet for your apple whiskey cocktail, you can add an extra dash of bitters or reduce the overall amount of apple brandy in the cocktail. 

Best Garnishes for an Apple Manhattan

Apple Manhattan in a vintage coupe glass with apple fan garnish
Apple Manhattan

While I love the beauty of a simple apple fan, you can enjoy this cocktail with even less effort by adding just a cinnamon stick and star anise to the top of the cocktail. To get that lovely aroma of cinnamon to spark from the stick either toast it lightly with a culinary torch or roll it briskly between your palms to warm the cinnamon oils on the surface of the stick. 

Other Cocktails You Might Enjoy

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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:

You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:

Did you try it? I love getting unsolicited DRINK pics from you when you try out a cocktail. Send them along to me on social media. Join me on my social channels at @cocktail_contessa on Instagram and Cocktail Contessa on Facebook and use the hashtags #cocktailcontessa and #bourbonismycomfortfood.

Want more cocktail content? Subscribe to my weekly newsletter here and get a free ebook of my favorite cocktails I can’t stop making!

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:

You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:

Did you try it? I love getting unsolicited DRINK pics from you when you try out a cocktail. Send them along to me on social media. Join me on my social channels at @cocktail_contessa on Instagram and Cocktail Contessa on Facebook and use the hashtags #cocktailcontessa and #bourbonismycomfortfood.

Want more cocktail content? Subscribe to my weekly newsletter here and get a free ebook of my favorite cocktails I can’t stop making!

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:

You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:

Jack of Hearts: Apple Manhattan

Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktailHeather Wibbels
Apples are everywhere in the fall and I love the combination of apple and bourbon together. This cocktail uses bourbon and applejack, a type of apple brandy, to create a spirit-forward, apple-tasting cocktail to sip at home by the fire. This play on words refers to applejack and the “hearts” cut of bourbon.
5 from 1 vote
Course Drinks
Cuisine Bourbon Cocktail
Servings 1

Ingredients
  

  • 1.5 oz Michter’s bourbon
  • 3/4 oz Laird’s Applejack or apple brandy
  • ½ oz sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Bittermen’s tiki bitters
  • 1 dash Old Forester Smoked Cinnamon
  • Garnish: cinnamon sugar rim, apple fan

Instructions
 

  • Rim a chilled coupe glass with cinnamon sugar.
  • In a mixing glass, add bourbon, Applejack or apple brandy, sweet vermouth and bitters. Add ice and stir for about 30 seconds or until well-chilled.
  • Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with an apple fan.
Keyword apple, apple bitters, manhattan, sweet vermouth
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
By on October 15th, 2021
Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktail

About Heather Wibbels

Heather Wibbels is a whiskey enthusiast (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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