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The Best Applejacks And Apple-Flavored Spirits, According To Bartenders

Once autumn begins in full, people all over the northern half of the US (and parts of California) decide that the most exciting weekend activity imaginable is driving out of the city to an apple orchard to pick their own apples. It’s always a thing that sounds cool and ends up being a more mid-level fun thing — unless there are fresh apple cider donuts on hand, in which case it moves waaaaaay up the “fall weekend activity ranking.”

Regardless of whether or not you’re hitting orchards for a little you-pay-them-type manual labor anytime soon, apples are synonymous with autumn. Fall is the time for apple pie, apple cider, and, perhaps most importantly, applejack and other apple-flavored spirits.

To find bottles of apple-centric booze for fall, we decided to head to the experts for advice. We asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the best applejack and apple-flavored spirits to drink before the leaves drop.

Apple Playa Cinnamon Liqueur

Marla White, lead bartender at Lona Cocina & Tequilera in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Apple Playa. Notes of cinnamon and apples go great in our ‘el pecado’ cocktail: blend of Contradiction Bourbon, Apple Playa, honey, and cinnamon.

The result is an adult liquid version of apple pie.

Crown Royal Regal Apple Whiskey

Molly Safuto, bartender at Mila Rooftop Bar at The Glenmark Hotel in Glendale, California

Crown Royal Regal Apple Whisky. You can drink it neat or mix it with sparkling apple cider. With the crisp apple flavor and notes of cinnamon spice, you start to forget that you are drinking whisky.

Laird’s Bottled in Bond

Andy Printy, beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis

Laird’s remains the champ! It’s America’s oldest registered distillery and a staple of early saloons. They harvest their own Pennsylvania apples and do a ton to support the bartending community. The balance of Apple to toasted oak is a profile designed to be the harbinger of autumn.

Their “bonded” expression is heftier in the ABV, but easily just as delicious.

Barking Irons Applejack

Crystal Chasse, beverage director at Talk Story Rooftop in Brooklyn

I am a big fan of Barking Irons Applejack. It’s locally made with delicious New York apples; the cider is produced Upstate and the aging process taking place in a stillhouse in Brooklyn. Their original aged 100 proof Applejack has fragrant caramel and baking spice notes, and their un-aged 80 proof is crisp and perfect in lighter style cocktails.

Old Hampshire Blended Applejack

Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami

Old Hampshire Blended Applejack works great in bourbon or cognac cocktails as a subtle introduction of apple flavor. This 100% New Hampshire apple-made applejack is sweet, rich, and full of cinnamon and vanilla flavors.

Laird’s Straight Applejack 86

Max Stampa-Brown, beverage director at Borrachito in New York City

Laird’s Straight Applejack 86, that’s all you really need. I ordered too much of it at a bar I worked at not long ago and wound up making a warm glühwein (mulled wine) with it. Tasted like apples and raspberry jelly on a toasted slice of whole wheat. People were upset that it only lasted a week.

Leopold Bros New York Apple Whiskey

Mitchell Cochran, bar manager at Shades Bar & Grill in South Walton, Florida

Leopold Bros New York Apple Whiskey. It has a very real apple flavor. It is easy to drink on the rocks but also goes great with Sprite and cranberry juice to bring fall flavors together.

Koval Apple Brandy

Brendan Bartley, head bartender and beverage director at Bathtub Gin in New York City

The best applejack is from Koval Distillery, in Chicago. Their ethos towards distilling is something I really love. They have a grain-to-bottle mentality and care where they source their products for distillation. In this case, apple-farm-to-bottle is the order of the day.

This, to me, is a sipping applejack. Aged in whiskey barrels, it has hints of vanilla and oatmeal, slight banana as well. But it’s a mellow smooth mouthfeel, like a creaminess to it. This has few sharp edges on it, and I think it’s a great way to spend a few hours watching the world go by during fall.

Laird’s Blended Applejack

Gavin Humes, bartender at Scratch | Bar & Restaurant in Encino, California

Laird’s Blended Applejack is the beginning and end of this conversation. Basically, their entire lineup provides the complexity and depth that I’m looking for. It’s got just enough wood, with the sweetness of the apples to be a fantastic sipping applejack, or fantastic in a cocktail.

Writer’s Pick:

Copper & Kings American Apple Brandy

This applejack was finished in bourbon and new American oak barrels. The result is a 92 proof, rich, subtly sweet brandy with hints of apple pie, vanilla, and caramelized sugar.

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