I want to introduce you to my new favorite cocktail of the fall; the Apple Thyme Old Fashioned. It's strong, cozy, packed with fall flavor, and perfect for sipping from now through Thanksgiving.
I'm totally in love with this cocktail. We've had it alongside squash soup, roasted root veggies, and hearty fall salads. It goes so well with fall fruits and veggies, and anything involving herbs like thyme, rosemary, and sage. I think it would even be totally delightful at Thanksgiving, since thyme makes such a frequent appearance in classic Thanksgiving dishes.
This is one we've made again and again over the past few years. For that reason, you'll see lots of options below and lots of generations of photos; it's really one that you can vary to fit your own tastes.
What Is an Old Fashioned?
The Old Fashioned is a very classic whiskey cocktail, and one that Dave and I love immensely. It's straightforward and not at all fussy, plus it's a great blank canvas for seasonal variations.
Classically-speaking, the Old Fashioned is made with bourbon (although rye can work as well, but is less traditional). The "original" Old Fashioned is just bourbon, simple syrup, and bitters. Not to be picky about things, but it's generally stirred and then served on the rocks... and usually a few large rocks rather than crushed ice. It's also garnished with orange peel (and not an orange slice... and not a cherry...). Sorry for the rant, but I'm a bit particular about how my Old Fashioned is made.
My Fall Version
Anyways, my seasonal riff uses the classic bourbon but replaces the plain simple syrup with a delightfully-fragrant thyme simple syrup. The bitters still play an important role, but you can use something fall-like (e.g. pecan bitters) if you have it. Then, instead of the usual orange peel, I like to garnish this one with apple slices (or whole baby apples, see below!!) and thyme. It's a bit less simple than the original Old Fashioned, but still true to the spirit of the drink.
Making a Simple Syrup
This cocktail relies upon a simple syrup to get all that wonderful thyme flavor into a drinkable form. If you've never made a simple syrup before, don't let the fancy name intimidate you! It's actually really easy to do at home, and a simple syrup keeps great in the fridge for weeks, meaning you can keep using it again and again all fall long.
A simple syrup is just a 1:1 mixture of sugar and water, cooked down until it becomes thick and syrupy. It's a great way to capture flavors that are difficult to get into a liquid form otherwise, like thyme. That's why the simple syrup is a very powerful tool in mixology!
Of all the simple syrups I make, thyme is the one I use most. It pairs so beautifully with both whiskey and gin, and is great with a large variety of fruits. While softer herbs (e.g. mint, basil) easily release their flavors with muddling, thyme really doesn't; a simple syrup is definitely the best way to get that beautiful taste and fragrance into a cocktail.
Let's Talk Ingredients
Here's what you'll need for this cocktail as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Fresh thyme. You'll use this for making the simple syrup and for garnishing the drink. Please don't try to use dried thyme, it definitely won't work well.
Granulated white sugar. Just good old plain sugar for making the simple syrup. I don't recommend trying to use brown sugar or coconut sugar, the color will be muddy and weird.
Bourbon. This is definitely a drink for a solid middle-shelf bourbon. Because there are so few other flavors in an Old Fashioned, the bourbon is really the star, so pick something you love. We like to make an Old Fashioned with Bulleit, Knob, or Buffalo Trace- something good but not super-distinctive.
Bitters. This drink will work fine with Angostura if that's what you have. It also works with other fall-inspired bitters, like pecan.
Apple slices. These replace the typical orange peel garnish and add a fresh, juicy aroma (plus a tasty snack!).
Something about this drink just feels so special to me. The thyme makes it seem so seasonal, the bourbon is warming, and the apple is perfect for fall. This is the sort of drink that I think epitomizes fall food, when we all go the extra mile to make things that are especially comforting and indulgent.
Our favorite way to enjoy this drink is in front of the fire for happy hour after a fall hike. But we've also brought it on picnics, served it at harvest parties, and one year I made it for Thanksgiving. It's a versatile, elegant sipper that will work great for all your fall occasions whether casual or festive. Cheers and happy fall!
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
It's much more than just food. Together we'll explore seasonal ingredients and healthy recipes. But we'll also delve into health and wellness topics, self care tips, books, podcasts, and the natural world. This newsletter is all about leading a more colorful, plant-filled, holistic, and intentional life.
To make the simple syrup, combine the thyme with the water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a low boil. Boil until the mixture has reduced significantly and turned a pale yellow/green color. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Keep an eye on it and don't let it go too far.
Strain the simple syrup through a fine-mesh sieve to remove all of the leaf and stem bits.
Put the simple syrup in a jar or container and chill it for at least several hours.
To make the cocktail, combine the bourbon, simple syrup, and bitters in a cocktail stirring glass with ice and stir well. Feel free to adjust the sweetness level to your own tastes.
Strain into a serving glass with ice, then garnish with apple slices and a few thyme sprigs.