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Spiked cider is ideal for parties: no shaking required, no juicing, easy to make four or eight or twelve at a time.

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 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 cider is ideal for parties: no shaking required, no juicing, easy to make four or eight or twelve at a time. Each of these recipes makes four servings; scale up as you need. These are full-on cocktails—not just juice with a splash of booze in it—so pay attention to serving sizes; drinking a whole pot’s worth in a big mug might, ah, get you into trouble.  And, don’t worry, each of these ciders will make your kitchen smell as good as ever.

Apples & 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. 

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 & Ango

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

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 twelve 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, studded with cloves, and three allspice berries. 

Vodka & Ginger

Traditionally, we spike up cider 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’re adding fresh ginger for its distinctive spice. While these all smell incredible on the stovetop, this might be the most fragrant of all. 

Photo: 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. 

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