You've seen the stuff on draft next to your beer of choice and popping up in aisles of your grocery store -- cider's been having its moment for a while now, meaning it's about time to up your apple game. Unlike beer, cider is subtle enough to be used as a base to mix with ingredients that will take you way farther than a shandy. How far? Well, for those of you who scrolled down early (shame on you) and said "Vinegar, really?" just trust us.

Photography by Eric Helgas / Styling by Ali Nardi

1. Apple Cider Vinegar/Fruit Vinegars

Yup, a quarter of an ounce of fruit-flavored vinegar goes a long way in a tall cold one of hard cider. And no, vinegar in your cocktail won’t taste like accidentally drinking contact lens solution. Sugars are added to make these vinegars palatable while their natural acidity will complement the dry flavor of the cider. Go with varieties like passionfruit and blackcurrant to build on the bright, fruity flavors of apple cider.
 

2. Ginger is great with apple

Fact: if this cocktail was wearing velour sweatpants, it would say sweet + spicy across the back. The sweetness of the apple goes well with the bold spicy flavor of ginger, so whether you’re adding in ginger syrup, fresh ginger juice, or spicy ginger beer, the versatility of apple will always be able to hold up to the kick to the face ginger can be.
 

3. Orchard/Stone Fruits

If you want to layer different fruit flavors within your apple cider cocktail, stick with orchard fruits. This sounds pretty limiting but it isn't at all -- this squad rolls deep. Use anything you find growing on a tree the way apples do, like cherries, peaches, pears, etc. Whether you’re making a syrup, muddling, or adding fresh juice, these flavors complement each other easily, especially because apple is very subtle, light, and has a versatile component to it. 
 

4. Beer

Cider and beer are those two friends who’ve been dancing around each other for years; it’s time to get together already to unleash the bubbly perfection that is a cider and beer cocktail. Avoid bitter, hoppy beers and stick to something with a high citrus flavor like a sour ale to complement the tart sweetness of apple cider without overpowering the cocktail. Or, opt for the simple malted flavors of a lager that won’t divert the flavors in the cider, or even for a dark stout for some creamy richness. Snake bites, anyone?

Photography by Eric Helgas / Styling by Ali Nardi

5. Substitute apple cider for Champagne

Apple cider and Champagne are similar in their versatility because their flavors are not overpowering. You wouldn’t add an IPA to anything and expect it to not totally blow out the cocktail with its bitter, hoppy flavors. In a testament to both their subtleties, the substitution of apple-cider in the place of Champagne will show the morning mimosa squad what it really means to power brunch.
 

6. Honey

Whether it’s is leaking out of the brains of a plastic bear or dripping from a freshly harvested honey comb, the golden stuff is a go-to and dependable cocktail ingredient. But beware. Both honey and apple cider are sweet, so throw in something with a little bit of acidity – this would be a good time for apple-cider vinegar to shine, with possibly a bit of lemon and ginger action in there for balance.
 

7. Mint

Look. Apples are a ride-or-die fruit. They’re not going to make you love them for one season and leave you like certain fair weather flavors (lookin at you PUNKin spice). So don’t be afraid to try out some summery flavors like mint in your apple cider cocktail, despite apple’s firm presence in our collective consciousness as a fall fruit.
 

8. Citrus -- lemons, grapefruit, lemonade

A squeeze of lemon or some lemonade will pull together the acidic notes in the apple cider for a tart, fresh taste. If you’re leaning towards something sweeter, lemon flavored simple syrup is your friend.
 

9. Apple Pie Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg

There are folks out there who do more to apple pie than just eat it -- and those people are for sure making amazing cider cocktails with apple pie spices. Incorporate flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg into your cocktail by making your own flavored simple syrup. It’s better than grating these spices over the cocktail because they don’t hold with the drink very well -- a splash of homemade syrup made of baking spices would better integrate itself with the overall liquid.

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