It’s bourbon season and all I can think about is this caramel apple old fashioned. It’s full of rich apple notes, decadent tastes of salted caramel, and still. . . Still I can taste the bourbon singing in each sip. This one calls for 95 to 100 proof bourbon, and it makes every sip worth it.
There’s a secret to the apple essence that shouts out with each sip, and it’s not apple brandy or apple syrup. It’s something I didn’t even know existed until I was trying to find a syrup recipe that captured the full sweet/tart taste of a bite of fresh apple. It’s called apple molasses and it’s fantastic.
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This cocktail is full of fall essences – like everything I’m making lately. Apples and caramel on the first day of October perfectly matches the weather and mood of things lately. I hadn’t had caramel apples in ages, and this cocktail was a perfect excuse to play with the flavors of that childhood treat.
What is Apple Molasses?
Apple molasses is easy to make (and also doesn’t contain any real molasses). I can’t take credit for the recipe. There are many all over the internet, but this is the one I used: https://www.foodiewithfamily.com/boiled-cider-apple-molasses/. Apple molasses is simply fresh pressed apple cider reduced to 1/7th or 1/8th of its original volume.
Instead of adding sugar to apple cider, which does give you a simple syrup, this method concentrates the full taste of cider into a small volume. I’m convinced it’s magic. To me, it tastes as good as warm apple butter straight from the stove.
In fact, I’ll need to make biscuits this weekend for the apple molasses.
I originally thought I could make this in a crockpot and was not successful. While it did reduce in volume, the molasses needed higher heat for a rapid boil to concentrate the flavors. It boils for about 40 minutes. Then you’ll lower the heat a bit until it reaches that final concentration. Rather than use 2 gallons as in the recipe above, I just used the same method with 8 cups of apple cider. It left me with a little more than a cup of apple molasses.
Ingredients Needed for the Caramel Apple Old Fashioned
Once you’ve made the apple molasses (which will then be used as a glaze on meats, drizzle on biscuits and pancakes, sweetener for hot teas or cocktails, etc.) you’ll just need to locate some caramel syrup. I used a kind made for coffee. It’s clearer than the kind intended for desserts and drizzles.
You can use a true caramel syrup here, just know that it will leave the cocktail cloudy and less luminous.
I wanted to use a 100 proof bourbon and went with my old standby, Old Forester. After adding in some cherry bark vanilla bitters from Bittercube and Hella Bitters’ ginger bitters I was sipping a cocktail that tasted like a caramel apple.
Why This Combination Works So Well with Bourbon
Caramel and apple are two flavors found in many bourbons. They are perhaps two of the easiest notes to detect in bourbon. Because they’re so prevalent, it’s easy to find a bourbon to elevate those flavors in a cocktail.
One of the ways to make a great bourbon cocktail is to match the flavor elements of the cocktail to the taste of the bourbon you use. It makes the blend of the flavors that much easier and more delightful.
In addition, when you select a bourbon that’s 95 proof or higher, you have more room to dilute the bourbon in the making of the cocktail without washing out all the flavor. (If you want more information on the effects of dilution and why ice matters in cocktails, go here).
Caramel and apple work together because apple has a tart sweetness, and that counters the decadent sweetness of the caramel covering it. It’s a great match of opposites that makes both individual elements become something even better in combination.
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Caramel Apple Old Fashioned
- 2 oz 95 to 100 proof bourbon
- ¼ oz apple cider molasses
- ¼ oz salted caramel syrup
- 2 dashes cherry bark vanilla bitters
- 1 dash ginger bitters
- Garnish: apple fan/wheel or caramel apple – I won’t judge
- Combine bourbon, apple molasses, caramel syrup and bitters in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until well chilled and strain into a rocks glass with one large cube. Garnish with an apple fan and a drizzle of apple molasses or just a while caramel apple. Food pairing and garnish in one!