Spiced Apple Cider Cocktails (Mulled Cider)

These spiced apple cider cocktails start with warm spices and fruit, which can be served on its own or made into an adult beverage with champagne, bourbon, or vodka.

A traditional warm spiced apple cider, topped with cinnamon sticks and oranges. Sliced oranges on a plate are in the background.

It is cider season and I am thrilled because it means it’s time for my beloved spiced apple cider cocktails! I fell in love with this combination a few years ago when we had a party at our home with more than 100 folks. As it was winter, we decided to make a few big batches of apple cider to keep around.

To be kid-friendly, we kept the cider unspiked and decided to leave out bottles of bourbon and oak vodka if folks wanted to imbibe. That night, we went through EIGHT GALLONS of cider, running out long before the party was over. The cider was so simple, and so delicious, I knew it was going to be in regular rotation for us.

This Spiced Cider is similarly warming and cozy than a Mulled Sangria or Hot Toddy, but carries a distinct flavor of sweet-tart apples and aromatic spices. It offers such a nice twist to the traditional winter beverages.

Ingredients

  • Apple cider: Each batch calls for one quart, and I love finding local ciders if I can. 
  • Fresh ginger: We will peel and slice this for the fresh pop of spice. Because of that, packaged slices of ginger or ginger paste won’t work as well. 
  • Spices: This calls for cinnamon sticks, five whole cloves, and ground nutmeg. Keeping with that fresh flavor, I prefer buying them whole and grating myself. 
  • Citrus: We need the peels from an orange and lemon, as well as the juice from the lemon. Adding the juice of the orange may make things too sweet, so I like to slice them and keep them for folks to drop into their mug. 
  • Brown Sugar: If you don’t have any, there are a few alternatives including honey, which you can add to taste! 
  • Alcohol: Vodka or bourbon goes well with this. If you want to serve the cider cold, champagne or prosecco give it the perfect amount of bubbles! 
Ingredients for spiced apple cider cocktails base

Ingredients

  • 1- quart apple cider
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 1 inch peeled ginger cut into rounds
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • peel from one orange
  • peel from one lemon
  • juice from one lemon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • Vodka bourbon, or champagne

Instructions

  • Pour apple cider into a medium pot. Break cinnamon sticks in half and add to pot. Add ginger, cloves, nutmeg, orange peel, lemon peel, juice, and brown sugar.
  • Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.
  • Ladle into mugs and 2 ounces of oak vodka or bourbon if desired. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and lemon or orange slices.
A shot with the multiple variations of spiced apple cider cocktails, both warm and chilled, with various types of garnishes and alcohol.

What Makes These Mulled Apple Cider Cocktails So Good?

This recipe is so simple and requires very little prep time, which makes it perfect for hosting. Anything that allows me to pour everything in a single pot and walk away is a win for me! There are a few other things I love about it as well: 

  • During the holidays it is always great to have one drink that pleases drinkers and non-drinkers alike. 
  • Easy to make in large batches and keep warm in a an air pot, or on the stove.
  • Alternatively, you can make this in your slow cooker by adding everything in the pot and cooking on low for four hours. 
  • I seriously love that these spiced apple cider cocktails can be served chilled as well. With champagne, this becomes an amplified sparkling cider you will absolutely love. 
Three glasses of a different version of spiced apple cider cocktails, topped with sliced apple and berries.

Serving and Storing

Like I mentioned, you can serve this hot or cold, and I prefer Air Pots to keep things warm. However, you may want a batch for yourself, or to make some ahead of time.

When stored in an air tight container, this will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few days. Note: You will want to shake up the container before pouring, to make sure all the delicious spices get blended again. 

Spiced Apple Cider cocktails in another form, with champagne, topped with cranberries and orange

More Cocktail Recipes

Originally published in November 2015, updated November 2020 with updated images and updated recipe card.

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