Spiked apple cider is ideal for parties: No shaking or juicing is required, and it's easy to prepare a lot at once.
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We've never encountered a hot apple cider — spiked or not — that didn't smell incredible. But often, especially if cooked too long, ciders can be far too sweet and cloying. It's pleasant to cradle a warm mug in your hands, but too sugary to really enjoy drinking. The solution? Less time on the stove, less sugar added, and, since this is a cocktail column here, a judicious pour of spirit.

Spiked apple cider is ideal for parties: No shaking or juicing is required, and it's easy to prepare a lot at once. Each of these recipes makes four servings, so scale up as you need. These are full-on apple cocktails — not just juice with a splash of booze in it — so pay attention to serving sizes. And of course, any of these ciders will make your kitchen smell amazing.

Apples and Bourbon

Apple cider has a natural affinity for dark spirits, and bourbon is a classic. While you could load this up with all kinds of winter spice, we keep things simple: cider, spirit, a little honey to balance the booze, and a cinnamon stick to garnish.

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Credit: Photo: Carey Jones

Instructions: In a small saucepan, combine six ounces of bourbon, eight ounces of apple cider, and two ounces of honey syrup (that's equal parts hot water and honey, stirred until dissolved). Heat on the stovetop over low heat, stirring occasionally, until just warmed through. Pour into four glasses and garnish each with a cinnamon stick.

Cider, Rum, and Angostura Bitters

Next up: Dark rum. This version is a bit richer, and brimming with plenty of fragrant elements: orange peel, clove, and allspice. The Angostura bitters may sound like a lot, but trust us — they contribute notes of warm spice that pair perfectly with the cider and rum.

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Credit: Photo: Carey Jones

Instructions: In a small saucepan, combine six ounces of dark rum (we're using Mount Gay Black Barrel), eight ounces of apple cider, and two ounces of raw sugar syrup (that's equal parts hot water and Sugar in the Raw or similar, stirred until dissolved). Add 12 dashes of Angostura bitters. Heat on the stovetop over low heat, stirring occasionally, until just warmed through. Pour into four glasses and garnish each with an orange peel, a couple of whole cloves, and three allspice berries.

Vodka and Ginger

Traditionally cider is spiked with dark spirits, like the rum and bourbon in the recipes above. But what if you want something a little lighter? Vodka can do the trick, too. Since it doesn't contribute much in the way of flavor, we add fresh ginger for its distinctive, peppery-sweet flavor. All of our cider variations smell fantastic on the stovetop, but this one might be the most aromatic of the bunch.

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Credit: Carey Jones

Instructions: In a small saucepan, combine six ounces of vodka, eight ounces of apple cider, and two ounces of simple syrup, along with four half-inch thick slices of fresh ginger. Heat on the stovetop over low heat, stirring occasionally, until just warmed through. Remove ginger from the pot, pour the cider into four glasses, and garnish each with a new slice of ginger.