Even here in Los Angeles, the evenings are finally chilly enough to warrant a mug of something warm and spiced. I've been dressing up plain apple cider with cranberries, which give this seasonal drink a lovely, rosy tartness.
The coziness of this drink begins as soon as you set the ingredients to simmer on the stove and the scent of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cloves wafts through the kitchen. Tart cranberry juice helps to balance the sweet apple juice or cider and perks up the color, too.
If you're serving a crowd, the recipe is easy to scale up. It can also be made ahead of time and reheated. Serve in individual cups or a crockpot with festive garnishes like cinnamon sticks, fresh cranberries, and orange slices. And for a boozy version, add a splash of liquor like dark rum, bourbon, or applejack.
4 cups cranberry juice blend or cranberry cocktail 4 cups apple cider or apple juice Peel of 1 orange, cut in large strips 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks 4 whole allspice berries 4 whole cloves Optional sweeteners: honey, brown sugar, or sucanat Optional garnishes: cinnamon sticks, orange slices, fresh cranberries
Place all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Strain and serve warm.
Notes on juices and sweeteners: • I prefer to use an unsweetened cranberry juice blend and unsweetened apple cider/juice and to sweeten the drink with honey (or not at all). Whether you sweeten it will depend on personal preference and the juices you use. If using sweetener, start with a couple tablespoons and increase as desired. • If using pure unsweetened cranberry juice (instead of a juice blend), reduce the amount to 2 cups and increase the apple cider/juice to 6 cups.