This cocktail brings together the seasonal flavors of apples, pears, ginger, and maple. Bourbon gives it a bit of bite and backbone. (For a sweeter, richer version, you could use a dark rum, like Plantation Grande Reserve or El Dorado 5-year.) You'll make more of the tangy ginger-maple syrup than you need for the recipe; save the remaining syrup for other cocktails or to sweeten and spice up tea or mulled wine.
Serves 8 (serving size: 1/2 cup)
1. Place first 3 ingredients in a blender; process on HIGH 30 seconds or until ginger is almost liquefied. Cool 2 minutes; strain through a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract liquid. Discard solids.
2. Combine 3 tablespoons maple mixture, bourbon, pear brandy, and bitters in a small pitcher. Add ice; stir for at least 15 seconds or until well chilled. Strain about 1/4 cup into each of 8 chilled cocktail coupes or Champagne flutes; top each serving with 1/4 cup cider. Garnish with apple or pear slices, if desired. Serve immediately.