Why Experts Say You Should Stick With Dark Spirits For Spiked Apple Cider

Apple cider is a pretty versatile drink — and we're not even taking into account hard ciders such as Angry Orchard. Sweet cider, which is very much like apple juice, can be drunk cold or hot, or you can simmer it with spices and seasonings to make mulled cider. One other option that some enjoy is to add booze to the beverage and create a spiked cider.

While there are drinks that call for mixing apple cider with vodka, gin, or even tequila, most recipes seem to gravitate toward the darker end of the spirit spectrum. Why should this be? Mashed asked four different experts, these being Kavé Pourzanjani, who is one of the owners of the Manhattan bar Paradise Lost; Haera Shin, beverage director for two of the Momofuku restaurants (these being Momofuku Noodle Bar and Majordomo); Max Green, bar director at Point Seven (another NYC bar); and Suzanne DeStio, sommelier and beverage director at the Manhattan eatery One White Street. While we, of course, received four different answers (which we will elaborate on in a moment), most of these seemed to boil (or simmer) down to this: Our experts just think it tastes better.

Dark spirits + cider = a wickedly good combination

Shin admits that "there really are no rules" for pairing spirits with cider but feels that "as apple cider is at optimal freshness in the fall, the profile of spirits leans towards the darker." The Momofuku beverage director has a personal preference for bourbon because "the vanilla, oak, and caramel notes complement the same existing notes in the cider."

Green also goes for something in the whiskey family but says, "Personally, I like a delicious blended scotch like Cutty Sark Prohibition," and further explains that "I've always thought it tasted like a great toffee cookie [with] lots of baking spice, caramel and chocolate notes." DeStio offers another option, saying, "Apple-based spirits like apple brandy or Calvados are a no-brainer."

Pourzanjani, however, provides a fun historical fact, telling us, "Before the United States Revolution — after which a patriotic fervor drove drinkers to domestic bourbon — rum was the spirit of the Americas." The bar co-owner goes on to explain that the colonial-era rum of choice may have been similar to the ones currently produced in Barbados, characterizing them as "rich [and] aged, with notes of caramel and baking spices." But Pourzanjani opts for "a funky high-proof Jamaican rum" for a more complex cocktail. If you'd prefer a low-ABV spiked cider, however, Pourzanjani suggests Amontillado sherry and says, "The rich nuttiness of Amontillado compliments the spices in apple cider perfectly without adding ... syrupy sweetness."