Raise a glass to autumn with this Apple Cider Old Fashioned. This sophisticated yet easy apple cider and bourbon cocktail will make you feel like a fancy bartender.

Apple cider old fashioned cocktails in two different glasses (1 tall, 1 short), on a tray with a whole apple.

Disclosure: This post contains the use of alcohol and is only intended for audiences who are 21 years old and up. This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the Michigan Apple Committee. All opinions are 100% my own. #MIApples

It’s fall here in Michigan, which means one thing – apple season! Michigan is truly where apples love to grow. They are the largest fruit crop in this state (I mean, we have over 14.9 MILLION apple trees!), which means there’s a farm market or cider mill nearly everywhere you look.

Michigan has the perfect climate and geography for the best tasting apples, so all autumn long, we enjoy stuffed baked apples, apple pies, apple mug cakes and of course, apple cider.

I love apple cider on its own, and even in savory recipes like my Thanksgiving rice. But most of all, as a cocktail ingredient!

I’ll stir up a caramel apple mule in a frosty copper mug for an after dinner treat, or make a big batch of apple cider punch for friends at a weekend gathering with a butter board or some roasted garlic dip.

Today, I’m sharing an apple cider version of my favorite cocktail – the old fashioned. This apple cider old fashioned is my absolute favorite fall drink, because it uses fresh Michigan apples, and it screams “Pure Michigan”!

A dozen or so red apples on a planked wooden table, shot from above.

About this apple cider old fashioned:

This apple cider bourbon cocktail recipe incorporates the classic elements of an old fashioned – bitters, orange peel and bourbon, but with a few unique twists, particularly Michigan Apples.

Instead of the traditional sugar cube that’s usually muddled with the orange peel to add sweetness, I am using maple syrup in this apple cider old fashioned! I love how the flavor of the syrup pairs with the cider in this apple cider and bourbon cocktail.

However, the maple syrup is actually optional in this apple cider and whiskey drink, as the cider itself is already sweet. So, whether or not you add the maple syrup will depend on your taste buds! If you like sweet cocktails, add the maple syrup. If you’d prefer less sweetness, go ahead and skip it.

Now, most old fashioneds do not have any sort of “mixer” added to them – they are, essentially, bourbon over ice, with a little bit of sugar and bitters. While I love them the classic way, I will admit that sometimes, it’s a little strong for me.

Topping this old fashioned off with apple cider makes it a little less of a sipping drink, and a little more of an easy drinking cocktail.

An apple cider bourbon cocktail in a small glass, garnished with an orange slice, cinnamon stick, and metal skewer with apple slices and cocktail cherries.

Why Michigan apple cider and whisky pairs like a dream:

Warm apple cider paired with spiced rum is VERY popular here in Michigan in the fall. If you love it, I’m happy for you! But, I really prefer cold cider instead of warm, and I definitely prefer whiskey or bourbon more than rum (I even make bourbon mules more often than traditional mules with vodka).

Whiskies and bourbons often have vanilla and baking spice undertones to them. Depending on how they’ve been aged, they can also have caramel notes.

All of these flavor notes in whisky really enhance the flavor of Michigan apple cider in this apple cider bourbon cocktail!

How to choose the bourbon for this apple cider bourbon cocktail:

Because there are so few ingredients in this apple cider bourbon cocktail, it’s important to choose both Michigan apple cider and a good liquor to go with it. I’ve mentioned both whiskey and bourbon. While bourbon is typically preferred in old fashioneds, the truth is that you can use whiskey or bourbon.

If you would consider drinking the whiskey or bourbon on the rocks, then it’s probably good for old fashioneds, too! I like aged bourbon, but if I want something “spicier,” I’ll use a nice rye whiskey for an apple cider and whiskey cocktail.

The only way to know what you prefer is to experiment, so on your way home from the apple orchard, pick up a few different bottles and see what you like best in apple cider old fashioneds!

A closeup photo of several red apples with Michigan Apples bar code stickers on them.

What kind of bitters should I use for this cider and bourbon cocktail?:

Think of bitters as a type of seasoning for cocktails. They are used to balance sweetness from other ingredients and round out the flavor of a drink.

Just like you have a choice to make about whiskey or bourbon for this apple cider old fashioned, you also need to make a decision about what kind of bitters to use. We keep our bar stocked with a few different varieties.

I found a really nice guide to using cocktail bitters, if you’re completely new to using bitters in cocktails. Angostura bitters are most commonly used in old fashioneds, but orange bitters are also delicious in this apple cider bourbon cocktail.

Or, go with my dad’s method of combining both varieties of bitters in one cocktail. Again, you’ll need to experiment to see what you like best, and that’s part of the fun of this apple cider and whiskey drink.

A tray of apple cider and whiskey drinks in various glasses, with a carafe of whiskey as well.

Can I make an apple cider brandy old fashioned?:

Yes! Brandy old fashioneds are very popular in the Midwest, particularly in Wisconsin. Feel free to make this apple cider old fashioned using your favorite brandy instead of whiskey or bourbon.

No matter what you use, be sure to garnish your drink with a few slices of crunchy, sweet Michigan apples. I like Gala or Honeycrisp, but use whatever variety of Michigan apple you like best!

Whip up a few apple and bacon phyllo cup appetizers to munch on, too!

More great recipes using Michigan apples:

When it’s apple season here in Michigan, we put apples in just about everything!

Apple cider old fashioned cocktails in two different glasses (1 tall, 1 short), on a tray with a whole apple.

Apple Cider Old Fashioned

Yield: 1 serving
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Raise a glass to autumn with this Apple Cider Old Fashioned. This sophisticated yet easy apple cider and bourbon cocktail will make you feel like a fancy bartender.


  • 1 strip (about 1 inch wide) orange peel
  • 2 - 4 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 3 ounces apple cider
  • Ice
  • Sliced Michigan apples, cinnamon sticks and cocktail cherries, for garnish


    1. Place orange peel, bitters and maple syrup (if using) in small glass and use muddler to gently release oils from orange peel.
    2. Add bourbon and cider; stir until well combined. Top glass with ice and serve immediately, garnished with Michigan apple slices, cinnamon sticks and cocktail cherries.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 274Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 6mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 1gSugar: 15gProtein: 0g

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