Warm up the Christmas season with an easy to make, delicious mulled apple cider recipe. Keep the cider warming on the stove, and it will also infuse your home with its memory-making aroma.
As we walked down the main street, oyster shells crunched under our feet. Every home was dressed up in Christmas finery. The air was cold, and it was heavy with the aroma of spices. We stopped at a makeshift counter on the side of a wagon and ordered two cups of hot mulled cider. Its delicious fragrance and taste warmed us up and made the stroll in Colonial Williamsburg at Christmas all the more magical.
Every time I sip Christmas mulled cider, I am transported back to the first time I tasted this spice-laced holiday drink.
There is something special so about sipping hot mulled cider during the holiday. It’s the same feeling that I get when snuggling in front of a roaring fire on a blustery, snowy day. Warm and comforted. Mulled cider not only makes me feel cozy and toasty on the inside, it also makes our whole home smell like Christmas. Mulled cider is not only a drink, it’s an experience!
What Is Mulled Cider?
Mulled cider is a warm, spiced beverage made by mulling or heating apple cider with a combination of spices and sometimes other ingredients like fruit, brown sugar, or honey.
The process of making mulled cider involves gently simmering the cider along with the spices and other flavorings, allowing the flavors to infuse into the liquid. It’s often served hot, making it a popular drink during colder months, especially at Christmas.
Mulled cider is known for its comforting and aromatic qualities, making it a festive and cozy beverage often enjoyed at holiday gatherings and events.
Spices In Mulled Apple Cider
Here are the most popular spices to use in Christmas Mulled Cider
- Cinnamon Sticks: A classic choice, cinnamon imparts a warm and sweet flavor to the cider.
- Whole Cloves: These add a slightly spicy and aromatic element to the drink. Be careful not to use too many, as cloves can be potent.
- Nutmeg: Grated nutmeg adds a nutty and sweet nuance to the cider. Use it sparingly, as it can be strong.
- Allspice Berries: With flavors reminiscent of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg, allspice is a versatile addition.
- Star Anise: Adds a licorice-like flavor, providing a unique twist to the mulled cider.
- Cardamom Pods: A warm and citrusy spice that can add depth to the flavor profile.
- Fresh Ginger: this will give your cider a kick. Use sparingly.
It’s best to use whole spices and not ground spices. Whole spice flavors will slowly infuse the cider and won’t make it muddy looking.
The beauty of mulled cider is there are so many ways to make it. In fact, you can change the spice, fruit, and other things you add to the cider, and you can make your own signature mulled cider beverage.
Popular Fruits To Use
Here is a list of the most popular fruits to use in Christmas Mulled Cider
- Apples: Include your favorite varieties of apples in this mulled cider. It will enhance the favor and look very attractive.
- Oranges: Orange slices, dried oranges, zest, or even orange juice can add a citrusy and refreshing twist to mulled cider. The natural sweetness of oranges complements the spiced flavors.
- Fresh Cranberries: Fresh or dried cranberries can add a touch of tartness and a burst of color to the cider. They are particularly popular in fall and winter recipes.
- Pomegranate: Pomegranate arils or juice can bring a unique and slightly tart flavor to the mulled cider. They also add a vibrant red color.
Dried fruits like apricots, figs, and golden raisins can be added for sweetness. The dried fruit gets plump and is delicious to eat. Aim for adding fruit that does not get mushy when heated.
A Word About Fresh Apples
Fresh apples tend to get mushy in mulled cider. I like to heat them in the cider but take them out when they are starting to get soft. This infused more apple flavor into the cider and keeps the cider from having lots of apple sediment.
What Is The Difference Between Cider And Apple Juice
Both apple juice and apple cider are made by pressing the juice out of apples. The difference is filtration. Apple cider has less filtration to remove tiny bits of solids. It is often unfiltered and unpasteurized. Apple cider is considered a seasonal drink.
And apple juice goes through a more extensive filtration to get rid of all particles of the apple except the juice. It is most likely pasteurized and sweeter. Apple juice is available and enjoyed all year.
Both apple cider and apple juice can be used to make mulled cider.
What Is The Difference Between Apple Cider And Dry Cider?
I’ve been seeing mulled cider recipes on the internet that call for dry cider. When we talk about dry cider, we are talking about a cider that has had much of the sugar fermented out of it and, therefore, is alcoholic. Don’t use dry cider for this mulled cider recipe, however, if you want to use it to spike your warm cider once it has been mulled, a little (or a shot) would be delicious. It would make a nice cocktail.
What Apple Cider Did I Use?
I found Honeycrisp Cider at our local grocery store. We love Honeycrisp apples, so I thought I would give this light-colored cider that is a little pink blush a try. It is delicious and a luscious foil for all the other mulling flavors. It also looked so pretty in the tall wine glasses I chose to serve it in.
Adding Other Juices
Christmas Mulled Cider tastes even more delicious when blended with other juices. Here are some favorites
- Cranberry Juice: Brings tartness and a deep red color to the cider. This is especially popular during the fall and winter seasons.
- Orange Juice: Adds a citrusy and refreshing twist to the mulled cider. It complements the warm spices and contributes a bright flavor.
- Pomegranate Juice: Adds a slightly tart and fruity flavor, along with a vibrant red color. Pomegranate juice can contribute depth to the overall taste.
- Mixed Berry Juice: Combines the flavors of various berries, such as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, for a fruity and slightly tart twist.
- Lemon Juice: Add brightness and a tangy flavor. Use sparingly.
Can I Spike Mulled Cider?
Yes, Christmas Mulled Cider makes a very special holiday libation. Add rum, bourbon, whiskey, or brandy to warm mulled cider for a toasty and tasty treat!
You can drink mulled cider cold with a bit of sparkling water or club soda for a yummy non-alcoholic drink. Add your favorite alcohol and put it in a fancy glass to make a very festive holiday cocktail.
What Garnishes Should I Use?
The best garnishes are some of the spices and fruit you have used to mull your cider. I like to use a fresh slice of orange and apple and a few fresh cranberries. If desired, add a long cinnamon stick.
One fun flourish for your apple slices is to cut out their centers with a tiny star cookie cutter. These look so festive! Slit the apple from the rind to the star point and hang the apple slice over the rim of the glass.
How To Make Christmas Mulled Cider
The process is so easy! Put fruit in a large saucepan or Dutch Oven.
Add spices and cider. Heat over very low heat on a cooktop for 30 minutes and up to a couple of hours. Do not boil.
Strain, if desired, and pour the cider into a mug or glass with fresh garnish. Keep the mulled cider warm by setting your cooktop’s heat source to the lowest setting and putting a diffuser plate under it.
Can I Make Christmas Mulled Cider In A Slow Cooker?
Yes, Add the ingredients to a slow cooker and cook on low for 2-3 hours. Put your slow cooker on the warm setting, and serve the mulled cider right from the slow cooker.
What To Do With Leftover Mulled Cider?
Leftover mulled cider can be kept in the refrigerator for about a week once it has been completely cooled. It can also be frozen for up to a year. To make mulled cider ice cubes, put cut-up orange slices, cut-out apple stars and a couple fresh cranberries in the bottom of a large size silicone ice cube tray. Fill each ice cube with just enough mulled cider to cover the fruit. Freeze until solid, and fill the ice cube tray the rest of the way up. Freeze. Use in cold beverages.
Use mulled cider in a recipe that calls for water or stock. It also can be paired with apple cider vinegar for a delicious and seasonal salad dressing.
Christmas Mulled Cider
- 1/2 gallon apple cider or apple juice
- apple slices
- orange slices
- handful fresh cranberries
- 10 whole cloves
- 5 star anise
- 3-4 cinnamon sticks
- liquor of choice
To Make Mulled Cider:
- Add all the ingredients to a large pot or Dutch oven and gently simmer for at least 30 minutes.
- Add garnish to the bottom of a mug or glass. Ladle warmed mulled cider over the garnish.
- Optional: Add a little liquor to the glass to make Spiked Mulled Cider
FAQ’s About Mulled Cider
Does mulled cider contain alcohol? Most mulled cider is warmed on the stove and is not usually made with alcohol. However, mulled cider can be served either with or without alcohol.
What is the difference between apple cider and mulled apple cider? Apple cider is the juice pressed out of apples, and mulled apple cider is cider that has been infused with warm spices, like cinnamon, cloves, and star anise.
Can mulled cider be reheated? Yes, mulled cider can be reheated and enjoyed.