The (Not Mulled!) Cider Cocktail I’m Serving This Entire Holiday Season

updated Dec 12, 2019
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Credit: Diana Yen

This year, I’m serving cider cocktails at all my holiday soirées — but I’m not making mulled cider. Instead, I’m whipping up a big batch of fancy, bubbly, cider punch.

The freshly pressed cider that starts showing up on grocery shelves and farmers market stands during colder months is an ideal base for punch. The puckery blend of sweet and tart pairs well with dark, wintery spirits like rum or whiskey. And I love to make the cocktail in big batches for guests to enjoy as soon as they step into the door, without someone (me) having to stand at a bar car all night mixing things together.

For clarity’s sake, I’m talking specifically about apple cider, which is freshly pressed and unfiltered, and not apple juice. Cider tends to have an opaque, murky brown color, and a fuller, more fresh apple smell. Apple cider is naturally a little tart; therefore, I pair it with a dark spirit. Whiskey, bourbon, or scotch would work, but I like dark rum. This year, my go-to rum has been Grander Panama Rum, which has been aged in white oak barrels previously used to make whiskey. It has earthy notes from the barrels and a smooth molasses flavor.  

How I Make My Cider Punch  

Here’s how I make my cider punch. First, I get a large punch bowl or container, and I combine the apple cider and spirits. Typically I’ll start with six cups of cider, and three cups of rum — I find a two-to-one ratio of apple cider to spirit works best. This keeps guests feeling warm and toasty, without becoming irresponsible — but you should feel free to adjust things to your taste.

Then I’ll add in a cup of sparkling apple cider, to give it a touch of fizz. Martinelli’s is alcohol-free and you can find it in most grocery stores, but there are others. You don’t have to stick to sparkling cider, either. Ginger ale and ginger beer are also excellent carbonated choices, or even seltzer water. Finally I’ll throw in a few cinnamon sticks along with some fresh apple or orange slices to bring warmth and citrus flavors. Then I stir it and taste. If it’s not sweet enough, I’ll add up to half a cup of simple syrup (just equal parts sugar and water), although a natural sweetener such as honey or maple syrup would also work.

Serving the Cocktail 

This is an easy cocktail to keep iced in a punch bowl, with some self-serve cups and a ladle. If you want to make this ahead of time, you can store it in the refrigerator until it’s time to serve. If you need the drinks pronto, stir in some ice to chill and let everyone help themselves! 

Your turn: What’s your favorite holiday cocktail?