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While hot apple cider might sound more Christmas-y than anything, this version with hard cider and apple slices would be the hit of any winter party.
Homemade Warm Spiced Apple Cider
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Warm, mulled cider is the perfect thing to drink on a chilly fall evening. One of my favorite memories of drinking warm cider is walking on a haunted halloween trail in the park looking at all of the carved jack-o-lanterns and dodging bats. Another favorite is on a slightly overcast fall day wandering through an apple or a hard with a warm mug of cider and hot apple cider donut, searching for even more apples to bring home. If you want to bring in some warmth to your home this fall, cider is the way to go.
Ina Garten’s Spiced Apple Cider Is the Only Drink You’ll Need This Winter
When the snow starts falling and temperatures dip below freezing, is there anything more comforting and relaxing than wrapping yourself up in a blanket, putting on a good movie and sipping a warm, delicious drink? We certainly don’t think so. Hot chocolate gets a lot of credit for being the best cold-weather beverage but there’s an overlooked alternative that, dare we say, is even better? Yes, we’re talking about hot spiced apple cider, specifically, the one Ina Garten features in her latest cookbook, Modern Comfort Food.
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We recently featured Ina Garten’s spiced apple cider recipe during our virtual event, Barefoot for the Holidays. The event was hosted by SheKnows and the co-founders of Cassandra’s Kitchen, Cassandra Schultz and Cintia Parsons. During the event, Cintia showed us how to make Ina’s go-to hot cider drink and the best part? It can easily be turned into a cocktail by adding a little bit of bourbon.
To make the drink, you’ll need some fresh apple cider, cinnamon sticks, an orange, an apple, lots of warm spices and of course some simple, yet chic glassware to serve it in. We recommend these insulated glass mugs available on Amazon or you can purchase the same ones we used during the event at Cassandra’s Kitchen.
You can get the full recipe for this delicious spiced apple cider from Ina Garten’s latest cookbook, Modern Comfort Food.
Homemade Hot Spiced Apple Cider Ingredients
- 4 cups apple cider
- 1 apple (cut into thin slices)
- 1 orange (cut into thin slices)
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice
*Note, if you want to add a little something extra to your cider, you can also use spices like ginger, cloves, or star anise. (I just prefer to keep mine basic.)
This Homemade Hot Apple Cider Is the Best Beverage for Fall (and It Makes Your House Smell Amazing)
Next to pumpkin pie, cozy sweater weather, and Halloween costumes, hot apple cider is one of the best parts of celebrating the arrival of the autumn season. And if it&rsquos homemade, even better. Before any intimidation sets in, know that making apple cider from scratch is incredibly easy&mdashall it takes is about 20 minutes of hands-on prep, plus fresh apples, one orange, brown sugar, and warming spices. Those same seasonings will impart your kitchen (and entire house) with the scent of all your favorite fall flavors as it simmers&mdashthink sweet cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Making apple cider is also the perfect why to put all those apples you brought home from the orchard to use. We recommend a combination of sweet apples (like Fuji, Honeycrisp, Gala, and Cortland) and tart apples (like Granny Smith or Jonathan). To make it boozy, add an ounce of brandy to each mug before serving.
- 8 cups apple cider or apple juice
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- 6 stick cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- Small apple slices
In a saucepan combine cider and brown sugar. For spice bag, tie cinnamon, allspice, and cloves in double layer of 100-percent-cotton cheesecloth. Add the spice bag to the cider mixture.
Bring to a boil reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the spice bag discard. Serve cider in mugs with small apple slices, if desired. Makes 8 (about 8-ounce) servings.
How to Make Hot Mulled Apple Cider From Apples: Step-by-Step Instructions
Fill up a big pot with 12 cups of water. Put the pot on the stove and turn on the heat.
To prepare the apples for cooking, thoroughly wash them under hot running water. Apples from grocery stores are often covered with wax. We don&rsquot really want any wax in the hot apple cider so it&rsquos better to remove it as much as possible before starting to cook them.
Once the apples are washed, cut them into quarters or, if your apples are very large, cut each apple into 5 or 6 pieces.
Make sure to remove the core as the apples are going to be cooked for a long time and the apple seeds might add some bitterness to the drink.
Place the cut and cored apple pieces into the pot.
Add the raisins, whole cloves, anise star, cinnamon stick, allspice, and ground nutmeg. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook for one hour at a low boil.
Also, make sure to keep the lid on at all times otherwise a lot of liquid will evaporate.
Prepare the orange by thoroughly washing it under hot running water. If you bought a non-organic orange, it&rsquos most likely also covered in wax. Since you are going to use the skin of the orange, you have to wash it very well and possibly scrab it to remove as much wax as possible.
Zest the orange using a microplane zester. Make sure to avoid any of the white pith because it can make your hot apple cider bitter.
Once you are done zesting the orange, press out the orange juice.
After one hour of cooking, open the lid and slightly mash the apples with a potato masher. No need to make apple puree, just make sure that the apples are slightly broken apart.
Add the orange juice and zest. Bring the apple cider to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and continue simmering for one more hour.
After two hours of cooking the cider, turn off the heat and let it cool.
You can leave it either until it&rsquos cool enough to handle or until it&rsquos completely cold. You can even leave it overnight.
Although it takes about 2 hours to cook the hot apple cider from scratch, it&rsquos mostly hands-off. The cider will slowly simmer in the background while you are doing other things. Straining the cider, on the other hand, might become a bit messy and time-consuming.
However, if you follow these 4 easy steps, it will take you only about 5 minutes to strain it:
What You Need to Strain the Hot Apple Cider:
- a slotted spoon
- 2 mesh strainers (you can also do it with one strainer but it will take longer) one of the strainers should be medium or large in diameter
- 2 bowls or pots
How You Can Quickly Strain the Cider:
- Prepare the mesh strainers by placing them over bowls or pots.
- Cover the bigger strainer with cheesecloth. With a slotted spoon, remove the apples, raisins, and spices from the pot and place them into the strainer. Remove as much as you can and leave it to drain a bit.
- Then press the cheesecloth to squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible.
- Cover the second strainer with cheesecloth. Pour the apple cider through the strainer to filter out the little bits. Press the cheesecloth to squeeze out the liquid. Combine the liquid from both bowls.
Once you have strained the cider, add the apple cider vinegar. This is my secret ingredient that adds just the right amount of acidity to the drink.
Taste the cider and add the molasses if desired.
When you are ready to serve the hot spiced apple cider, reheat it on the stove and serve it as is or add your favorite garnishes such as sliced apple, lime, orange, lemon, whole cloves, cinnamon, sticks, or star anise.
If you need to store the cider, you can keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Hot Mulled Apple Cider Cocktail
Designed for an 8 oz. mug. Scale up as needed.
- 1.5 oz. Irish whiskey
- 4.5 oz. hot mulled apple cider
- 1 oz. unsweetened half-whipped heavy cream
Pour whiskey and cider into a pre-heated mug, leaving a little less than one inch of room from the rim. Gently pour half-whipped unsweetened cream so it layers on top. Garnish with a pinch of ground cinnamon. Take a sip and reflect on how some parts of winter are actually pretty nice.
Notes on Ingredients and Technique
Photo: courtesy Steve Cukrov/Adobe Stock
Cider: If you own a juicer, odds are it&rsquos in the back of a cabinet somewhere, and you never pull it out because you barely remember how the pieces fit together and you distinctly remember how long it takes to clean. Well, that&rsquos all true, but I&rsquoll say up front that juicing your own apples is the single most important thing you can do to make your cider as good as it can be. Grab equal amounts of sour (e.g. Granny Smith), neutral (e.g. Yellow or Red Delicious), and sweet (e.g. Fuji) apples, and juice them all together. The juice will start to oxidize and turn brown. That&rsquos ok.
If you can&rsquot juice your own apples, it&rsquos worth a small amount of work to find some quality unfiltered apple cider. You may need to go to a specialty grocery store for this. It should be non-alcoholic, brownish, and opaque.
If all you can get is mass market stuff at the supermarket, you should still be able to find an unfiltered juice. It&rsquoll be a little sweeter than you want, but we have ways of dealing with that, below. If all you have is Motts or Juicy Juice, you can still make this drink and it&rsquoll still be good, but it will lack complexity. Bottled apple juice is simple and sweet and is largely made for children.
Spices: For every 16 oz. of juice, add two smashed cinnamon sticks, six cloves, and a quarter of a bulb of nutmeg. You technically can use powdered versions of these, but I wouldn&rsquot&mdashthe pre-ground stuff tastes like a copy of a copy, and it&rsquos not like whole spices go bad once you&rsquove bought them.
Optional additions here are a star anise pod, which will give a licorice note (not my thing, but you do you), and two or three orange slices, which I don&rsquot like but you&rsquore certainly welcome to if you want. For me, when I cook citrus juice it always tastes like a multivitamin, but I understand some people like it.
Simmer: You&rsquoll need to put your cider and spices together, and simmer them. I see some recipes calling for a four-plus-hour cook, which is crazy. There&rsquos really no reason to simmer this longer than an hour, and I only do 30 min. It gets plenty of spice in a half hour.
You can do this in a covered pot, or in a crock pot or pressure cooker or slow cooker. The two important bits here are that there&rsquos a lid, because you&rsquoll not want to concentrate the sweetness (more on this below), and that you don&rsquot add the alcohol until you&rsquore ready to serve.
Sweetness: Unless your aim is to make dessert, excess sweetness is your enemy. Apples are already plenty sweet. If you were able to juice your own, the tartness of the Granny Smiths will help, but you still don&rsquot want to reduce the liquid, because this will just make the inherent sweetness more intense. My recommendation is to take note of how much liquid you have when you turn on the heat, and then compensate for any evaporation by topping off at the end with a spot of water. You&rsquore cooking to heat it and to infuse the flavors from the spices. You&rsquore not making an apple demi-glace.
And whatever you do, don&rsquot add sugar or maple syrup. Unless of course you&rsquore trying to turn this into a liquid pie, in which case do whatever you like.
Spirit selection: This template is pretty agreeable to whatever aged spirit you have around. Bourbon works, rye works, scotch, cognac, apple brandy and aged rum all work, but I believe the ideal spirit is the mild softness of Irish whiskey, which is a natural match for apples and spice. Jameson, Bushmills and Tullamore D.E.W. are all classics and perfectly acceptable here, and there are some exciting upstarts like The Busker, but my personal favorite brand is still Redbreast 12, which has a flavor that, like a great server or bartender, is somehow present when you want it to be and absent when you don&rsquot.
Pre-warming the mug: Just like with the Hot Toddy, you want to make sure your mug is heated before you put the cider in there. You&rsquore already mixing the cider with a couple ounces of room-temperature booze, so if you don&rsquot pre-heat your mug, it will get cold too fast. Pour some boiling water in your mug, let it warm the mug for 30 seconds, then pour it out. Now you can add your spirit and cider.
Finishing touch: It will still have a bit too much sweetness for what we normally think of a balanced cocktail. There are a few things you can do here. You could just deal with it. You could add a squeeze of lemon or lime. Or, we could poach a trick from the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco, home of the best Irish Coffee in the world, and do what they do: take unsweetened heavy cream, and lightly whisk it until it has form but is still pourable, and then layer about a half inch on top. This helps keep it warm, keep the alcohol from becoming volatilized, and has the added benefit of mitigating the sweetness all the way until the last blissful sip.
Every week bartender Jason O’Bryan mixes his up his favorite drinks for you. Check out his past cocktail recipes.
What is apple brandy?
Apple brandy is essentially a concentrated apple spirit made by distilling fermented apple cider. Its roots in the US trace back to early colonial times, but even further in Europe, where it's been a craft for centuries.
Apple brandy is often referred to Applejack or Calvados. The former refers to a popular New Jersey-born spirit, and the latter refers to the original fermented French apple brandy originating in Normandy. Applejack is technically apple brandy diluted with neutral spirit. Calvados is alternatively a double-distilled cider with a ABV of 60-80%.
While apple brandy can be enjoyed on its own as an after-dinner digestif, it also adds complexity and depth to fall cocktails. You can add it to a cocktail in addition to a stronger liquor, like whiskey or vodka. I personally love adding a dash into a Moscow Mule. It pairs so well with ginger beer and lime!
You should be able to find some version of apple brandy at most liquor stores or specialty grocery stores. When in doubt, ask an employee. Much easier than scanning the shelves on your own!
In this hot apple cider cocktail, apple brandy is the only spirit. We wanted a drink that's easy to sip, with just a hint of fermentation. If you's prefer something stronger, a dash of bourbon would be an excellent addition. It's completely up to you and your preferences!
It takes just a few minutes to bring this cocktail together. Simply add everything (except the brandy) to a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Stir in the apple brandy, pour into a mug and you're good to go.
If you'd like to add more depth of flavor, you can simmer the cider for longer. The more time the cinnamon has to infuse into the cider, the better (in my opinion!).
Hot Southern Comfort Cider Recipe
Southern Comfort was my drink of choice in college where I was introduced to it by watching Janis Joplin guzzle it straight from the bottle at a concert in West Palm Beach in 1969 a few weeks before her appearance at Woodstock. I have an indelible memory of sitting on a large flat rock in the Mississippi River about 15 feet apart my best friend, Peter Potterfield, and the two of us tossing a flask of Southern Comfort back and forth, allowing it to plunk into the water just in front of us, sink, and bob to the surface. It was a long two-pint day that day in 1971, but we got the job done, we solved the world’s problems.
This warm cocktail recipe is the perfect cold weather drink, après ski if you will, or après snow blower. I’ve tried it with other liquors and liqueurs, but Southern Comfort is my fave. It is technically a liqueur, but not as sticky sweet as most, and at 70 proof it is mellower than the 100 proof stuff that Potterfield and I drank. The drink was created by Martin Wilkes Heron, a bartender, in 1874 at McCauley’s Tavern in the French Quarter of New Orleans, LA, and he called it Cuffs & Buttons at first.
Heron, it is said, was looking for a way to make raw unaged clear moonshine taste better by adding fruits and sugar. The current recipe is a secret, but my research and my palate tell me it is a blend of neutral spirits (vodka) with sugar, apricot and/or peach, with perhaps a whisp of citrus. Maybe there’s even eye of newt, bats wings, and belly button lint. Whatever, it has the right balance for sipping without making your lips stick together, and it works perfectly in this warm beverage.
For the record, nobody paid me to talk about Southern Comfort.
And by the way, Potterfield has gone on to become a writer too, world famous as an outdoor adventure journalist and author of the book Classic Hikes of North America: 25 Breathtaking Treks in the United States and Canada.