Hard Apple Cider Sangria for Fall
September 14, 2021
Do you love apples? Then you are in the right place. This perfectly sharable cocktail features apples in four different ways, which is essential for fall. Hard cider combines with apple cider, apple brandy, and fresh apples, along with a few complementary friends to make this light and refreshing sangria.
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The recipe for this sangria was developed to save the day. We had miscalculated how many empty bottles were needed for a batch of home-brewed hard cider that was finished fermenting, and at the last moment we needed more. Luckily, we had bottles from a previous batch in the cabinet, ready to drink.
Instead of drink them plain, I couldn’t help but doctor up our creation into a fully-loaded apple-heavy concoction. And this delicious, light and sparkly sangria is where it landed. I love the subtle extra flavors in this, like the ginger syrup, bourbon, and cinnamon rim. Some of apples’ best friends help highlight the delicious flavor of this fall fruit.
What You Need to Get Started
You can easily find all of the ingredients for this hard apple cider sangria at your local stores:
- From the Bar: Hard cider, Apple brandy, Bourbon
- Produce: Apples
- Fridge: Apple cider, Ginger syrup, Rich simple syrup, Soda water
- Pantry: Sugar
- Spice Rack: Cinnamon, Cinnamon sticks, Star anise
- Equipment: Pitcher, Wooden spoon
Let’s Make Hard Apple Cider Sangria
This is a little bit different from your typical sangria. First of all, there’s no wine. Instead, this recipe uses a higher-alcohol dry cider. Plus, instead of a variety of fruits, the focus of this party punch is fully apples.
So of course, it starts with fresh diced apples. When choosing types, you can go with pretty much any apple that is crisp and has a good sweet-tart balance. For color variety, I used three different types: ginger gold, which is a greenish yellow, sansa, which are light red and green, and a gala for the bolder red.
Cut the apples just before you need them, since they can oxidize quickly. Once you add them into the alcohol, that will help stop the oxidation process, keeping them from turning brown on the cut edges.
When choosing a hard cider, I recommend supporting a local cidery if possible. It’s most important that you use something dry, so look for that description on the bottle. Some more well-known brands that you could use are Stella Artois Cidre or Angry Orchard Stone Dry.
If you want an alcohol level close to a typical sangria, try one on the higher range of alcohol content, around 8%. Otherwise, a standard 4-6% will be fine.
As soon as you are done cutting the apples, combine them with the hard cider in a large container or pitcher. Cover this and let it chill in the fridge overnight. If you have a little bit of a bottle of cider leftover, you can drink that on its own while you wait.
The next day, add in all the rest of the liquid ingredients, except the soda water: apple cider, apple brandy, bourbon, and both the ginger and rich simple syrups.
When you are selecting a non-alcoholic apple cider, again, if you are able, it will taste the best if you buy directly from a local orchard if possible. If you are not able, cider from a grocery store, such as the Trader Joe’s spiced cider, works well in this.
For the liquors, you can replace apple brandy with pear or apricot brandy instead. You can also leave it out entirely if you prefer, or replace with additional bourbon. Speaking of the bourbon, any type, or other sweet whiskey, will work well here. I used Maker’s Mark, since that’s what’s always on my bar.
Both syrups can be made from scratch if you’d like, or if you’re not a fan of ginger, replace that syrup with more rich simple syrup. To make the ginger syrup, combine equal parts by volume of sugar and water and heat until the sugar dissolves. Then add fresh ginger to infuse it for at least an hour.
For the rich simple syrup, follow the same process of heating, but use a two-to-one ratio of sugar to water, and don’t worry about infusing it with anything. If you prefer to buy your syrups, I used Liber & Co’s Fiery Ginger, but any brand will work.
Stir everything together thoroughly with a long-handled wooden spoon. Finally, add in the soda water last, and give the sangria in the pitcher another quick stir.
At this point, the sangria is done and ready to be served. If you’d like to make it ahead, you can store it in a sealed jar or pitcher in the fridge with no ice for a few days. The apples will continue absorbing additional alcohol and flavors the longer it sits, so feel free to strain those out and store them in their own separate sealed container.
Just before you are ready to serve your sangria, create the cinnamon sugar for the rim of the glasses. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon together with a fork or spoon. Then spread out the mixture on a small plate or saucer.
Wet the outer rim of each glass using either sangria or just some water. Then dip the glass upside down into the cinnamon sugar on the plate, turning and tilting to coat it all around the edge.
And now you are all set to pour the sangria! Add a handful of ice to each glass, carefully so you avoid knocking the cinnamon sugar off the edge. Then fill each up to the top with the sangria.
Depending on your pitcher, the apples may pour with the sangria or they may stay back in the pitcher. If needed, you can use a slotted spoon to scoop out additional apples and add them to each glass. The drunken apples are one of the most fun parts of this drink, so don’t skimp on them.
Garnish each glass with cinnamon stick and a pretty-looking star anise. These won’t add a ton of flavor, but the aroma will bring a warm and spicy feeling to the experience of drinking. Serve these immediately, or the ice will begin to melt.
Apple lovers, this is the cocktail for you! Hard apple cider sangria is the perfectly shareable drink you need this fall.
How to Serve Cider Sangria
Make this delicious apple-forward sangria the centerpiece of a fully fall, apple-themed brunch. You can serve plenty of other tasty apple dishes such as apple butter brioche cinnamon rolls, a no-bake caramel apple cheesecake, apple slices with ginger caramel, or a pear and apple crisp with honey caramel.
If you’d rather enjoy this a bit later in the day, it’s a perfect choice for happy hour. You can serve it alongside other cozy fall cocktails such as a chocolate old fashioned or chocolate turtle martini. Or get super cozy with a pecan pie hot buttered rum.
And of course, a fruity punch like this one is a great choice if you are serving dessert to a crowd. Pair it with treats that will also feed your whole crew, like a honey pavlova with chai-poached plums or apple cardamom strudel.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- Apple brandy is the star in another fall cocktail: the apple brandy alexander.
- You can use bourbon in plenty of drinks, but also in the crust of this apple tart.
- Extra rich simple syrup adds some sweetness to a mango & rum tropical sunrise.
- If you have apple cider left, make it into apple cider caramel stuffed snickerdoodles.
- Cinnamon sticks and star anise both add spice to the easiest slow cooker applesauce.
Hard Apple Cider Sangria for Fall
- 32 oz Dry Hard Cider or apple wine
- 3 Apples medium-sized, any variety, diced into ½-inch cubes
- 1 Cup Apple Cider your favorite variety, spiced or regular
- ¼ Cup Apple Brandy
- ⅓ Cup Bourbon or Whiskey
- 1 Tbsp Ginger Syrup optional (replace with more rich simple if not using)
- 2 Tbsp Rich Simple Syrup
- 2 Cups Soda Water
- 1 tsp Sugar
- ¼ tsp Cinnamon
- Cinnamon Stick for garnish
- Star anise for garnish
- Combine the diced apples and hard cider in a large container or pitcher. Cover and let chill in the fridge overnight.
- Mix in the apple cider, brandy, bourbon, and syrups, stirring until thoroughly combined. Add in the soda water last, and give the pitcher another quick stir.
- In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Spread on a small plate or saucer. Wet the outer rim of each glass and then dip into the cinnamon-sugar on the plate, turning to coat.
- Add a handful of ice to each glass, and then top with sangria. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out additional apples. Garnish with cinnamon stick and star anise and serve immediately.
- Make ahead tip: Store sangria in a sealed jar or pitcher in the fridge with no ice for 3-4 days. If you'd like, you can strain the apples and store them separately, so they don't continue absorbing additional alcohol and flavors.
- When choosing a hard cider, I recommend supporting a local cidery if possible. You will want something dry, and with an alcohol content between 6 and 9%. Some more well-known brands that you could use are Stella Artois Cidre or Angry Orchard Stone Dry.
- When choosing a non-alcoholic apple cider, again, support local orchards if possible. If you are not able, cider from a grocery store, such as Trader Joe's spiced cider works well.
- You can replace apple brandy with pear or apricot brandy instead.
- Any bourbon or whiskey will work well here. I used Maker's Mark.
- Ginger syrup can be replaced with more rich simple syrup, made from scratch (simply infuse a basic 1:1 simple syrup with fresh ginger for an hour), or bought. I used Liber & Co's Fiery Ginger.