Few things make autumn worth looking forward to more than the seasonal return of apple cider, spiked or not. The mix of tart-and-sweet cider, combined with wintery baking spices and brightened with orange, warms the spirit as well as the body and evokes a certain type of nostalgia for many.
The most important consideration when making spiced cider is the type of cider to use. Fresh apple cider is essential. There’s a time and a place for sparkling or hard ciders, but not here. Depending on what part of the country you’re in, a local farmers market might be a great source. Otherwise, you’re most likely to find fresh apple cider in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. It should be cloudy, not clear.
The spices given here are a starting point; feel free to throw in a chunk of fresh ginger, a few black peppercorns or anything else you wish. Note that whole spices are called for because they’re easier to strain out. If you choose to go with ground spices instead, use a sachet to infuse them so you don’t end up with spice bits floating at the top of your drink.
Making it in a saucepan on the stove produces results most quickly (and allows the aroma to drift, which is half the fun of making it), but if you have a Crock-Pot and a few hours, you can go that way instead; simply add everything into the pot and heat it on low for 3 to 4 hours.
- 4 cups fresh apple cider
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice berries
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 large swath of orange peel
- 4 ounces calvados or bourbon (optional)
- Garnish: orange slices
- Garnish: cinnamon sticks
Serves 4 to 6.
Add the cider, cinnamon stick, allspice berries, whole cloves, star anise pod and orange peel into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to cook just below a simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.
Remove from heat and add the bourbon or calvados, if using. Stir briefly to combine.
Garnish each with an orange slice and a cinnamon stick.