The Apple Claus


As people come together over the holidays there is plenty of opportunity to enjoy time with friends and family and toast the season. Since I’m now the de facto bartender at most of these functions, I recently put together a vodka and grapefruit juice cocktail called The Fireside, based on requests from the family. It was a great universal cocktail, and I’m looking forward to using this as inspiration, and putting a bourbon spin on it, to work on a “Fireside Old-Fashioned.”

More recently, my wife and I were invited to the first holiday party of the season, and I had the opportunity to create some libations for the guests at the gathering. The Apple Claus cocktail was presented to me along with a fresh bottle of Four Roses Small Batch, which was a great incentive for me to give it a whirl.

The ingredients immediately jumped out at me as a perfect cocktail for seasonal festive occasions, especially with the addition of champagne. When the mention that the cocktail would be topped with bubbles was met with great enthusiasm, I knew The Apple Claus would be a hit!

The History

This favorite seasonal cocktail combines an All-American favorite - Four Roses Bourbon - and a bit of bubbles. The melding of flavors from the syrup enhances the Four Roses Small Batch. The apple goodness shines because the simple syrup is made from simmering real apples, cinnamon, and sugar. The effervescence from champagne truly compliments the flavors.

You will want to enjoy this cocktail throughout the holiday season through New Years. For larger gatherings and parties, you may want to consider batching the ingredients in a punch bowl. This cocktail also adds a little southern flare to your annual holiday celebrations.

The Apple Claus was created by Laura Moore, lead bartender at The Epicurean Hotel located in Tampa, Florida, and placed third in the 2016 Charity Cocktail Challenge!

The Apple Claus setup!

The Apple Claus setup!

The Recipe

Cocktailing the ingredients in the Apple Claus is simple. Since it is still new to me, I haven’t had a chance to play around with the recipe to make it my own just yet. In future iterations, I’d perhaps batch or even swap the lemon juice with apple cider to enhance the apple flavors. I do think this would probably serve best as a party punch, considering that it’s made with sparkling wine.

  • 1 1/2 oz Four Roses Small Batch
  • 3/4 oz Apple Cinnamon Tea Simple Syrup
  • 1/2 oz Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Sparkling Wine (I used Korbel Brut)*

Combine bourbon, syrup, lemon juice, and bitters in a cocktail shaker. Add ice. Shake. Strain into a chilled coupe. Top with the sparkling wine. Garnish with an orange twist or apple slice(s). 

*= Based on your personal tastes, you might want to consider using an Extra Brut (dry) champagne to top this cocktail to help balance the sweetness of the syrup.

The Execution

What makes this cocktail special is the Apple Cinnamon Tea simple syrup. You should create this yourself and the process is straightforward. Below is my recipe for creating the sweetener component. 

Bourbonatic’s Apple Cinnamon Tea Simple Syrup

  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 1 Black Tea Bag*
  • 1 Apple*

*= I used Twinnings Earl Grey and a large Fuji apple.

Slice apple into 12 pieces. Halve cinnamon sticks. Heat the water in a kettle and add the tea bag. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Let tea steep for approximately 5 minutes. Add sugar to a 2-quart pot. Pour the tea over the sugar. Add the apples and cinnamon sticks.

Place over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Bring to a boil and allow to boil approximately 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, keeping all the ingredients in the pot. Remove apples and cinnamon sticks. Strain into a serving container (I use a squeeze bottle). 

Grab your friends and test out this cocktail during the holiday season. Cheers!