This hot apple cider is mulled with warming spices and spiked with bourbon for a cozy fall drink! It's ready in under 30 minutes and is perfect for fall gatherings.
There's nothing quite like a cup of hot apple cider to warm you up on chilly fall day.
My cider of choice contains a spike of bourbon for a little extra heat and warming spices, but you can choose your favorite spirit or make this mulled cider alcohol-free if you prefer!
- Ready in just under 30 minutes
- Filled with warming fall spices
- Spiked with bourbon (or your preferred liquor)
- Lightly zested with orange juice and zest
- Bonus: makes the entire house smell amazing!
What you'll need
- Unfiltered apple juice has a hazy appearance that is classic to mulled apple cider. This means that it has some of the apple solids remaining in the juice instead of being filtered to be 100% clear.
- Bourbon is my go-to for mulled cider because it is sweet and filled with spice (I also love using it in sweet potato casserole!).
- Whole star anise, cinnamon sticks and cloves make up the warming spices and add make the apple juice into mulled cider.
- Navel orange: This contributes both juice and zest, which brightens up the mulled cider and adds contrast to the sweetness of the apple.
- Sweet red apple, like Honeycrisp, Fuji, or your favorite fall variety, is used as a garnish.
How to make
Making mulled cider on the stovetop is surprisingly easy. See below for tips to make this recipe in a slow cooker/crock pot.
Simply add all ingredients, except for the bourbon, orange slices and apple slices, to a 4 to 6-quart Dutch oven or stockpot.
Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce to a low simmer and cover. Bubbles should only rise to the surface every few seconds. Simmer for 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.
Stir in the bourbon just before serving. You can also add 1 and ½ ounces bourbon to each glass with 6 ounces apple cider. Garnish with sliced oranges and apples. Strain out any whole spices before serving.
- Simmering time: The longer you simmer the mulled cider, the stronger the spice flavors become. Twenty minutes is the sweet spot where the spices start to shine, but you can really simmer it for up to an hour.
- Serving sizes: This recipe makes 8 servings which come out to just under 8 ounces per person. Each contains 1.5 ounces, or one shot, of bourbon per person. For 2 ounces of bourbon per serving, increase to 16 ounces, or 2 cups, of Bourbon.
- For easy spice removal: Wrap the spices in cheesecloth and tie the cloth into a knot for a spice-bag. This allows you to easily remove the spices from the mulled cider before serving.
- Why not simmer the bourbon with the apple juice? I went back and forth with this while testing the recipe, but finally decided to add bourbon to the mulled cider after simmering to avoid acidently simmering off the alcohol. Simmering for just 15 minutes can cause anywhere from 40-90% of the alcohol to evaporate! (source) It's not an exact science, but it's better than having no alcohol in your spiked cider!
Spiked cider FAQ
Leftover cider can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days. I recommend straining out the spices before refrigerating and keeping the alcohol and cider separate. Cover and reheat on the stove over medium-low heat until warmed through, about 10 minutes.
Yes, this works really well cold. I still recommend simmering all of the ingredients together because this is what allows the flavors to meld. Use a sieve to remove any whole spices. Let the mulled cider cool to room temperature before transferring to the fridge. It will take 4-6 hours to cool completely. Serve over ice.
Yes, this recipe can easily be made alcohol-free. It will still taste just as delicious!
Rum is great in cider because it is very spicy. Any kind of American whiskey will also work. Brandy is another classic option in cider. Rule of thumb: dark liquor works better in mulled cider than white liquor because it has a much more warming body, so I don't recommend trying this with gin or vodka.
Add all ingredients, except for the garnishes and bourbon, to a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours. Add the bourbon and let sit on low for 10 minutes so that all the flavors meld. Remove the spices and garnish with orange and apple slices when ready to serve.
Ground spices don't work in mulled cider because they dissolve into the liquid and can't be removed. This lends a lot less control over the final flavor. For a cheaper option, you buy a packet of mulling spices instead of each individual spice.
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This recipe is also available to view as a web story in my Spiked Mulled Apple Cider Story.
Spiked Mulled Apple Cider with Bourbon
- 48 ounces unfiltered apple juice see note #1
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 4 whole star anise
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 2 medium navel oranges
- 12 ounces bourbon see note #2
- 1 medium Honeycrisp apple
- To a 4 to 6-quart Dutch oven or stockpot, add the unfiltered apple juice, whole cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks. Add the zest from half of one orange and the juice from half of one orange (about 2-3 tablespoons).
- Bring to a rapid simmer over medium heat. Reduce to a low simmer and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.
- Remove from heat and stir in the bourbon, or add 1.5 ounces bourbon to each glass with 6 ounces of cider. Strain out any whole spices before serving. Garnish with a sliced orange and sliced apple. Enjoy hot.
- Unfiltered apple juice is just apple juice without the natural sediment filtered out. It has a cloudy look which gives apple cider its classic appearance. You can find it in the juice aisle right next to the apple juice.
- Bourbon: Feel free to use rum, another type of whiskey, or brandy.
- Serving sizes: 8 servings come out to ~8 ounces per person, with ~1.5 ounces of bourbon per serving. For 2 ounce shots per glass, add a total of 12 ounces of bourbon.
- Leftover cider can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days. I recommend straining out the spices before refrigerating and keeping the alcohol and cider separate. Cover and reheat on the stove over medium-low heat until warmed through, about 10 minutes.