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5 Ways to Use Apples in Your Cocktails

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Tiffany Mallery

Taking a satisfying bite out of a crisp apple on a cool, fall day ranks pretty high among life’s simple pleasures, IMO. And when you’re not eating one in October or November, you’re never far from a peck (10-12 pounds of apples) or a bushel (48 pounds), or row upon supermarket row of fall’s most emblematic fruit, from RubyFrosts and SnapDragons to Galas and Mutsus, or any other of the more than 7,000 varieties of apple.

As versatile as they are omnipresent, apples have hundreds of uses, including an oft-overlooked important role in cocktail culture. For centuries, apples have been a primary ingredient to enhance, and create, a range of spirits, cocktails, and adult beverages. From traditional mulling and cider pressing to more contemporary uses like infusions, there are almost as many ways to deploy apples in cocktails as there are varieties of apple (well, almost). Here are five apple-centric moves to add to your cocktail game.

Tiffany Mallery

Apple Butter

Don’t let the name fool you. Apple butter is not butter at all. It’s a highly concentrated form of applesauce made from slow cooking apples with cider or water and brown sugar. Think of it like a more liquefied version of pie filling. The sugar in the apples (and the brown sugar) gradually caramelizes, turning the concoction a deep brown color and giving it a seriously rich flavor and texture. The process also preserves the apples. Combine apple butter with spirits like whiskey or bourbon, and it brings a soft, creamy complement to their bold flavor profiles. It also plays exceptionally well with fall flavors like cinnamon, ginger, and, especially, caramel.

Garnish

Garnishes can be a great way to impress your guests and add flair to your cocktails, with minimal effort. There are a few methods you can use to turn apple slices into simple yet festive eye candy for your drink glasses. They can be fanned and set on the rim, cut into wheels, speared with other garnishes like rosemary and pomegranate, or carved into ornate shapes. Depending on how craft–y you are, you can create truly amazing apple garnishes, from apple butterflies, swans, and hummingbirds to flowers and circular cross-sections with the apple’s naturally occurring star at the center.

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The apple has hundreds of uses, including literally dozens of ways it can be used to enhance adult beverages. Apples play well with fall cocktail flavors like cinnamon, ginger, and sage, and they’re also great imbued directly into spirits, as in the deliciously smooth Crown Royal Regal Apple, a selection of whiskies infused with Regal Gala Apples and apple flavors.

Muddled

Muddling apples with earthy spices such as ginger, maple, nutmeg, and cinnamon adds an explosion of both flavors and textures to your cocktail. Best when left to macerate, muddled apples make an especially great base for seasonal drinks like punches, cider, sangria, and whiskey sours.

Tiffany Mallery

As a Vessel

Another easy and entertaining way to solidify your Host of the Year title: serving your drinks in apple cups. This makes delicious (and sustainable) use of extra apples you may have left over from all that autumn apple-picking. Slice off the top and hollow out the fruit, then fill with the liquid of your choice. For apple gelatin shot vessels, build the recipe in the hollowed out apple, then slice into wedges.

Apple Whiskey

Apples and whiskey have been a compatible pair since colonial times, as applejack—an apple-based cousin of whiskey—was a mainstay for US settlers during the harshest of winters. The two happen to pair well together in cocktails, including the Washington Apple, a modern classic that blends Canadian whisky, sour apple schnapps, and cranberry juice. Additionally, apple-infused whiskey is great for variations on other classics like the Old fashioned, Manhattan, Whiskey Smash, and Whiskey Sour. There’s a scientific reason for all this, too. During distillation, whiskey produces flavor compounds called esters that contain apple-like notes.