Mulling season is upon us, and everyone needs a good spiked mulled cider recipe up their sleeve to serve at a holiday party or after a long day of skiing and sledding. This easy slow-cooker version makes the most of fresh apple cider, fragrant spices, and of course, the nice body-warming effects of bourbon, brandy, or dark rum.
The Best Booze for Spiking Cider
If you're serving mulled cider to a range of guests that includes children and those who don't want alcohol, a spike-it-yourself mulled cider station is your best bet to make the drink friendly to all. But if everyone's happy to partake, spiking the whole batch is the way to go.
But what booze is the right booze? I find that the darker, more caramel-y flavors of brown liquors work best in mulled apple cider. Bourbon, brandy, or even a dark aged rum have enough oomph to stand up to the sweet flavors of the spices and apple cider.
As to when to add in the booze, it's best to wait until the mulling spices have flavored everything first. If you add the alcohol in the beginning, it gives the mulled cider a slightly bitter taste. Wait until the mulling is done, add the booze, and let the flavors meld together for a few minutes, then keep warm and serve.
Spiked apple cider isn't terribly boozy (only 3/4 ounce alcohol in an eight-ounce serving), so you can enjoy a few mugs, but there's just enough in there to warm up your throat and tummy as you sip and savor.
Learn the basic recipe: How To Make Slow Cooker Mulled Cider
Slow-Cooker Spiked Mulled Cider
1 gallon fresh apple cider or unfiltered apple juice
1 medium orange
1 (1 1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger
5 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon whole cloves
5 star anise pods
1 1/2 cups bourbon, brandy, or dark rum
Orange slices, for serving (optional)
Pour the cider or juice into a 5-quart or larger slow cooker.
Cut the orange into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Cut the ginger into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add both to the slow cooker.
Add the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and star anise. To make it easier to serve, place the cloves and star anise pods in a tea ball first, or place in a double layer of cheesecloth or coffee filter, gather it up into a sachet, and tie closed with kitchen twine.
Cover the slow cooker and cook until the flavors meld, 4 hours on LOW. Add the bourbon, brandy, or rum and stir to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes for the flavors to meld. Keep warm and serve in mugs garnished with orange slices.
- Apple cider: Buy fresh apple cider or unfiltered apple juice for the best flavor. Do not use sparkling cider, spiced cider, hard cider, or clear apple juice.
- Storage: Leftover cider can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.