Simmering Sips: Spiced Cider and Mulled Wine Recipes

These adaptable warming drinks will take you through autumn and into the New Year
Hot mulled apple cider with cinnamon sticks, cloves and star anise

Photo: nblxer/Adobe

If we want to keep the outdoor get-togethers going as long as possible while gatherings continue to look different than in years past, we will need some warming drinks. As you cozy up by a firepit or heat lamp, spiced cider and mulled wine are perfect companions to take you through autumn and into the winter holiday season.

Apart from being warm and comforting, these drinks are easy to adapt to your tastes. The spices and ratio of juices and spirits in the mix are up to your interpretation. Also, if you have children in your group, it’s easy to make the spiced cider an all-inclusive alcohol-free beverage that the kids can enjoy, and simply add a spirit to an adult individual serving.

You can adapt these drinks for holidays, too, having a little fun with names and garnishes. Adorn the Halloween “Spider Cider” with spider-esque star anise, plastic spider rings, or any other silly accoutrements that inspire you. A sprinkle of pumpkin spice could add a touch of Thanksgiving flair to the creation. Add a sprig of greenery and call it wassail come December.

The mulled wine (“Vampire Broth”?) could be a brooding Halloween beverage or pair nicely with some cheese, pie, or ginger-spiced desserts later in the season.

The beauty of these beverages is that you can play around with the ingredients and make them your own from simply adding a little cinnamon to hot apple cider or mixing the cider or wine with other juices, spices and spirits. The fun is in the experimentation—and you have the whole season to try different takes and find your favorite creation. Cheers!

Spiced Cider

Makes 8 Servings

Hot mulled cider is open to your interpretation; here are juices, spices, and spirits to get you started.

10 cups apple cider (See Notes)
½ cup lemon juice (about 2 or 3 lemons)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
10-12 cloves or 1 teaspoon ground
4 cinnamon sticks, plus more for garnish, if desired (See Notes)
8-16 ounces brandy, rum, cognac or other spirit (See Notes)
apple, orange, or lemon slices, for garnish

  1. In a medium pot over medium heat, add the apple cider, lemon juice, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon sticks (but not the spirit). Simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Add the desired amount of spirit into each mug, then ladle in a serving of the warm spiced cider mixture and stir. Alternately, add the spirit to the pot and stir then ladle the complete mixture into mugs. Garnish each serving with apple, orange, or lemon slice and cinnamon stick, as desired.

    • It’s best to make sure to use apple cider, which is made from unfiltered apple juice and has a deeper and more complex flavor than regular apple juice.
    • As a variation, substitute 2 cups orange juice (about 6 oranges if squeezing your own) for 2 cups of the apple cider.
    • If you don’t have cinnamon sticks, you can substitute each 2-inch cinnamon stick with ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon. After mixing, taste to see if you want more cinnamon flavor. Ground cinnamon has a stronger flavor than cinnamon sticks, so don’t add too much at once.
    • New Prairie Organic Sustainable Seasons Apple, Pear & Ginger Vodka could make a tasty option for the spirit.

Mulled Wine

Makes 6 Servings

When making mulled wine, it’s not the time to bring out your most expensive bottle, but make sure to use a red wine you enjoy drinking on its own such as Beaujolais, Merlot, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Syrah or a red blend. This is a creation you can tweak, mixing in or omitting certain spices and switching up the sweetener, spirit and such to your taste preferences.

1 (750 mL) bottle red wine
2 cups fresh apple cider
¼ cup honey (or ½ cup sugar)
zest and juice of 1 orange
5 whole cloves
4 green cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks, plus more for garnish, if desired
1 whole star anise,
1 or 2 pinches nutmeg
¼ cup brandy.
orange slices, for garnish

  1. In a large saucepan, pour the bottle of red wine, apple cider, honey (or sugar), orange zest and juice, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, star anise, nutmeg and brandy. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally—do not let the wine boil. (To make in a slow cooker, heat on Low about 1 hour, then reduce heat to warm setting.)
  2. Serve warm in heat-resistant mugs and garnish each serving with an orange slice and cinnamon stick. If you have any leftover mulled wine, allow it to cool completely, pour into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Thirsty For More?

Check out these seasonal sippers:

Fall Cocktail Roundup
Mix up spice and many things nice for delicious flavors of the season

Halloween Cocktails
Stir things up with candy corn in a glass and ghoulishly fruity brews

Headless Horseman
Savor the flavors in this warming riff on the Hot Buttered Rum.

Seasonal Drink Recipes
Whether you’re looking for punch or a cocktail as dessert, these recipes can take you tastefully through autumn.

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.