Apple cider can be wonderful on its own, but why not jazz it up with some warm spices and then spike it with your choice of spirit? You can save some time by making a batch cocktail for your Thanksgiving gathering (which hopefully isn’t too big this year!). You can also put it in a carafe and let folks spike it as they please, which allows for taste preferences and folks who don’t imbibe.
I recently made this for our socially-distanced, outdoor family celebration for my son’s first birthday. It was just the right drink to get people in a festive mood and take the chill off from the November breeze. The crowd favorite spirit was Lawn Dart, a lemon-ginger liqueur from Old Fourth Distillery in Atlanta. I got custom stickers from Back to Basic, and I used some of them for the hot cups! The pump carafe is several years old, but here’s a similar one (affiliate link).
Spiced & Spiked Apple Cider
½ gallon apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole cardamom pods (optional)
1 star anise (optional)
Alcohol of choice, such as:
Whiskey, scotch, or bourbon
In a large pot, heat cider and all spices over medium to medium-high heat until it barely comes to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer for 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat, and strain out spices (you can place spices in cheesecloth or a tea bag at the beginning for easy removal). Do not cook longer or leave spices in cider because you’ll risk over-reducing it or making it bitter.
If making a batch cocktail, add 8 ounces of desired alcohol and serve immediately (hot)—that’s the equivalent of about one shot per serving (8 servings). Otherwise, place cider in a carafe to keep warm and allow guests to spike as they please.
Feel free to add or omit spices as you desire. A chunk of fresh ginger would be another good addition!
You can spice the cider ahead of time, refrigerate, then reheat. Make sure to remove the spices before chilling, and add any alcohol after it‘s reheated.
If the cider gets over-reduced, simply add some water back in, a little at a time, until it’s no longer too sweet or concentrated.