I don’t understand the pumpkin spice tyranny that happens every fall. It’s not that pumpkin spice is bad, per se, it’s just that (starting as early as August!) it’s everywhere. Pumpkin chai, pumpkin latte, pumpkin beer, pumpkin vodka, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin milkshakes… By me-September, I’m over it. Added to that, while bourbon goes really well with pumpkin spice, when it comes to the actual squash, it’s not stellar.
Enter apple cider, and it’s many wonderful variations, that are perfect for everything from early-fall hayrides to late-autumn porch-sitting.
You can start with a basic bourbon-spiked apple cider recipe, like this one from Country Living (if there’s ever a time to use a recipe from a publication with “country” in the name, it’s when you’re making hot beverages with booze). Cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg are basically pantry staples, (as is bourbon, let’s be real) so the only thing standing between you and a cup of warm cider is a quick trip to the grocery store.
With some slightly more ambitious spices, the honeycrisp and bourbon-spiced cider from Spoon Fork Bacon teams all the usual suspects of spiced cider with a few interlopers–cardamom, ginger, and star anise, which might be more at home in Asian takeout, but nonetheless have some serious flavor payoff.
If you’re in the mood for something a little spicy, Martha Stewart has you covered with her maple-bourbon cider. The maple syrup adds an earthy sweetness, but the real star of the show is the hit of cayenne pepper (which you certainly won’t find in a pumpkin spice latte at your corner coffee shop). Bonus? This cider is equally good hot or on ice.
To get really decadent and soul-warming, what you really need is some butter. While the phrase “hot buttered _____” normally conjures up “hot buttered rum”, there’s no reason not to let bourbon in on the action, like the fine folks from Bon Appetit did.But if you’re really going for extra credit, you can spice your bourbon separately from the cider–and then enjoy a spiced bourbon Old Fashioned while dealing with the trick-or-treaters.
Though who would know better about bourbon-spiked cider than one of your fearless contributors? Thomas Fondano’s “Autumn in the Port of Manhattan” starts with 8oz of of hot apple cider, plus 1oz of bourbon, 1/2oz ruby port, and a dash on Angostura bitters. In his words, “It’s basically a little Manhattan in a mug of cider. I use Wild Turkey 101 and Cockburn’s Fine Ruby Port, but in this much cider there’s a lot of room for variation.”