Over the course of the most festive month of the year, in Spike Glee, Allison Shoemaker will explore the wonderful world of slipping some alcohol into a hot beverage. The second beverage up: hot cider.
If you only drink hot cider in the fall, you’re a fool. A fool, I say. Fear not, however—should you sip on hot cider at any time of year, you’re doing leagues better than the poor saps who only experience that delightful apple beverage at temps that range from “thoroughly refrigerated” to “room.” It is, of course, possible to drink a steaming mug of hot cider without adding a little booze to the proceedings, and the delights of even that are manifold. But when you add a little booze, treating it as an opportunity to transform the flavor and make get a little tipsy in the process, hot cider becomes next-level festive.
Perhaps more than any other beverage we’ll spike in this series, boozing up cider can be done pretty instinctively. You know what apple cider tastes like. Does that lemon vodka sound like it would be good? Go for it. It’s not my bag, but if it’s yours, amazing, you just made yourself a delicious beverage. If you can imagine that flavor turning up in an apple pie, it’ll probably be great in your mug.
I’ve broken things down into general flavor profiles or approaches. And, as was the case last time: If all else fails, just pour in a tot of a good rye. Whiskey is delicious.
One last thing: If you’re asking, “Hey, Allison, can’t cider be alcoholic, too?” then you’re correct. We’ll address that, too.
To be clear, you can absolutely spike boozy cider, and anything on this list will do the trick (I’ve noted below if something has a lower ABV). But since adult apple cider is very much a thing, you can also just skip the spike and still get a bit of a festive buzz. I’m particularly partial to using Le Brun ciders, which are French and deliciously funky; Virtue’s Michigan Brut and Michigan Apple are also great bets. If you’re using something that’s already spicy, forgo the mulling or you’ll feel like you’re drinking a Yankee Candle Company.
As for mulling, you can either buy a mix—lots of good ones out there, but I typically use Urban Accents—or make your own using whole spices. Smells great, looks fancy, tastes delicious.
My god, this gorgeous thing. St. George takes its pear brandy, infuses it with whole cloves and cinnamon sticks, adds cane sugar and pear juice, puts it in a very pretty bottle, and ships it off like, “Hey, no big deal, we make stuff this delicious all the time, what do you expect?” It’s a 20 percent ABV, so if you’re concerned about how much alcohol you’re taking in, this is a solid choice. (Also great with alcoholic cider, if you’re going that route.)
Similarly tasty: Add cider to cider with Mesh & Bone’s Pomme & Poire cider (or any other relatively dry pear cider).
Apples and cranberries: You feel festive just thinking about it, right? I’m obsessed with this bottle at the moment; it’s one of those amazing liqueurs that has far more apple-ications (ha) than it might seem at first glance. Don’t be put off by the gin base, even if you’re anti-juniper. There’s an appealing botanical note, but you won’t think even once about licking a pine tree. Instead, there’s just a rich cranberry flavor that’s not overly tart with some sweet, sweet herbaciousness. Save some of the bottle for your bubbly on New Year’s, and look and feel extremely fancy while the ball drops.
Similarly tasty: BroVo Boomerang liqueur. Even more complex, similarly festive.
Just trust me on this: I have personally consumed cider spiked with cumin-infused tequila. I had my doubts. Reader, when I am wrong, I say so. This is delicious. The earthiness and warmth add depth and complexity to what’s already freakin’ delicious, because hot cider is a gift. It may sound adventurous, or like it’s for a refined palate or something, but nah. Just tasty, through and through.
However, if that’s too weird for you, Spice Note also makes a very tasty cinnamon-infused tequila. Pretty straightforward, that combo.
Similarly tasty: I’ve not yet tried it, I’ll admit, but this pairing made me very curious about mixing mezcal and cider. If you try it, let me know. When I try it, I’ll do the same.
I’m not big on flavored vodkas outside the realm of Bloody Marys, generally, but for this, I’ll make an exception. Find any decent vanilla vodka (or make your own vanilla simple syrup and use a vodka that doesn’t smell like paint thinner), add it to cider, and congratulate yourself on your excellent life choices. Simple, perfect. I’m partial to North Shore Distillery’s take on it, but it’s not easy to find. Don’t overthink it.
Bonus: If you make your own simple syrup, it’s cheap and you get to use it again and again, in all kinds of things.
Speaking of not overthinking it, add bourbon to your apple cider. Almost any bourbon will do. If you want to be really on the nose, you could use an apple-flavored whiskey instead—they’re everywhere, consult your local purveyor of find spirits—but personally, I like a bourbon with some notes of caramel or nuttiness. At the moment, my go-to is New Holland’s Beer Barrel Bourbon, pictured above, but really, you can use any bourbon that’s a decent sipper. Pour generously—it’s a spirit you won’t want to disappear.
Next up: The best ways to spike tea.