This Cider House Whiskey Cocktail with Homemade Cider Syrup is rich with bourbon and the flavors of Fall; enjoy it over ice or warmed.
In certain parts of apple country, most notably western New England and along the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a long-favored tradition was the making of boiled cider. From the colonial period until the 1920s, wherever orchards proliferated, this syrup was a pantry staple, a general-purpose sweetener that cooks reached for in the way we might turn to honey today. It bound mincemeat and pots of baked beans, filled pie crusts in New England and moistened fruitcakes in Virginia.
What it wasn’t typically used for was pouring over pancakes or biscuits (but don’t let anyone tell you it shouldn’t be). Today I’ll also use it for topping some ice cream, adding to hot water for a warm cider drink or using it for one of my fall concoctions, especially combining it with bourbon. This Ciderhouse Whiskey Cocktail is a simple combination of boiled cider syrup, bourbon and lemon and it’s sort of perfect.
To make cider syrup at home is as simple as boiling cider in a heavy pot over low heat for a couple of hours. The only other ingredients are time and patience and I know those can sometimes be hard to find but find them, it is so worth it! I first started making boiled cider when I lived in North Carolina and it’s a tradition I look forward to each fall when fresh apple cider is available at local farmers markets.
Reducing fresh cider until it coats the back of a spoon yields an elixir as thick as molasses and nearly as sweet, with a bracing tartness and undertones of burnt caramel. I’ve seen recipes that add sugar for sweetening and cornstarch for thickening but none of that is necessary in my book; I love the tartness and the natural sweetness that comes from the slow boil and once boiled down enough it thickens nicely. I like mine just barely coating the back of a spoon but you can continue cooking until it’s thicker; just be careful, you don’t want it to burn!
My absolute favorite fall cocktail is this one with Bourbon, Apple Cider and Ginger Ale but this Ciderhouse Whiskey Cocktail that I first spied on Saveur a couple of years ago is a staunch rival. The apple is more pronounced and without the ginger ale the bourbon is definitely a bit bolder but it’s warming and wonderful and a perfect use for cider syrup.
I can feel the chill starting to permeate the air more each day and while I hate to see raspberries and mint cocktails wane, this one helps to remind me of the road ahead as we move into months that will see us want something a bit heartier to ward off winter’s bracing cold and wind.
I know some of my purist friends will cry foul when I tell you about this bourbon from Colorado but let them, I just loved the Tin Cup Whiskey that was sent to me and it was absolutely perfect with this cocktail. Such a great mellow taste with just enough spice and pepper notes blended with a real sweetness from the bourbon; it all worked so well with the tart cider syrup.
There is a great story around this whiskey; how Jess Graber made distilling his whiskey a hobby for 30 years before deciding to get serious. This is their latest offering and I thought it a real winner. It’s made with Midwestern grains and aged in White Oak Barrels and the resulting whiskey could be my new favorite. The packaging is so smart too; a tin cup shot glass lid and lucky me…they also sent me these fabulous tin cups for my cocktail…the better to travel with my dear!
I think you need both; the cider syrup for so many great fall treats and then of course this cocktail once your syrup is complete. It can be your reward for that patience part! I might have revised mine just a tiny bit from Saveur’s; preferring a bit more of the cider flavor than the original recipe calls for. I suggest you start with it as is and modify the apple portion to suit you too but whatever you do…just make it and Here’s to Fall!
Boiled Cider (Apple Cider Syrup)
2 hrs 5 mins
For the Cider Syrup
- 8 cups apple cider
For the Ciderhouse Bourbon Cocktail
- 2 oz. bourbon
- 1 oz. cider syrup
- A strip of lemon zest
For the Cider Syrup:
- Pour cider into a large heavy-bottomed pot. Using a Popsicle stick or wooden chopstick, mark the stick at the level of the cider; remove the stick and mark again at 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8 of the amount between the bottom of the stick and your first mark. These marks will serve to help you gauge when your cider has reduced to between 1/7th and 1/8th of the original amount.
- Bring cider to a boil over high heat and then reduce to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until reduced, approximately 2-3 hours. Check the level against your stick measure at regular intervals; overcooking will result in a syrup that is too thick (if that happens it can be remedied with the addition of some water).
- Cider is finished when it gets just above the 1/8th mark and should coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and strain if desired. I use butter muslin, a more tightly woven form of cheesecloth that works much better than the fabric you find at the grocery store but if that is what you have just layer several layers together to most effectively strain the liquid.
- Pour into a container and refrigerate. Cider syrup can be canned but I never do; it has a long shelf life in the fridge and ours is long gone before it could ever go bad!
To Make the Cocktail:
- Combine bourbon and cider syrup over ice and stir gently. Twist lemon zest and drop into drink, stir again, and serve.