Hot chocolate is always a good choice, but nothing quite warms me up like a mug full of hot, spiced cider — especially if that cider is homemade. I like to choose the spices that I use in my cider so that I get the perfect blend of sugar, spice and apple flavors.
Fortunately, it is easy to make up a batch of spiced apple cider at home so that you can have it on hand any time you need a hot drink for a cold evening! And this recipe all starts with… a good bottle of apple juice, of course!
A good cider requires good apple juice. You can work with any brand that you like, but I always start out with all natural, unfiltered apple juice that is not from concentrate.
This type of juice has no sweeteners of any kind added and as a really appealing cloudy coloration that suggests it is just packed with real apple flavor — and it always is.
Since you’re going to be adding in other ingredients to make your cider, you want to keep the juice as basic as possible. If you happen to have a juicer and want your apple juice to be as fresh as possible, you can even juice your own apples!
Once you have your juice, you need to add in some spice. I use a blend of cloves, allspice and cinnamon. These are the same flavors I use in to apple pies, apple breads and apple cobblers — they really compliment the natural sweetness of apple without overwhelming it.
When making cider, I prefer to work with whole spices, rather than ground. Ground spices still impart an excellent flavor, but whole spices are easier to work with, as they can be strained out easily when you are ready to serve. With ground spices, you may need to pass your cider through a coffee filter two or three times to remove them.
Whole spices also stay fresh a lot longer than ground spices, so if you fill up your spice cabinet with cinnamon sticks and allspice berries, they will be there when you need them next season.
I typically let my cider infuse for about an hour on the stovetop. This is plenty of time to draw out the warm flavors of the spices. If you want an extra-spicy cider, it is much easier to double the spices than to try to steep the same spices for twice the time.
A batch of the finished cider will keep for at least a week in your refrigerator when stored in an airtight container or bottle. If you are planning on serving the cider immediately, you can simply strain out the spices as you pour a batch into a punch bowl, and you will be ready to serve a holiday crowd!
Homemade Spiced Cider
Yield: 1 Gallon
- 1 gallon unfiltered apple juice
- 3 3-inch cinnamon sticks
- 1 tbsp whole cloves
- 1 tbsp whole allspice berries
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
Pour apple juice into a large pot. Break cinnamon sticks into 1 to 1 1/2-inch pieces. Add cinnamon, cloves, allspice berries and brown sugar to the apple juice and bring the mixture to a simmer. Stir occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
Once juice simmers, cover the pot and turn heat all the way down. Cook over a very low flame for 10-15 minutes, then turn off the heat. Allow cider to steep for 1 hour.
Pour cider through a strainer into a large pitcher (or other storage/serving container), straining out the spices with a sieve. Serve hot, or refrigerate and reheat when ready to serve.