Food & Drink

8 Easy, Boozy Ways to Upgrade Hot Cider

While a steaming cup of hot cider on a cold day is pretty blissful in and of itself, the boozed up version of that experience is infinitely better—and it provides double the warming defenses. You can tip nearly any dark liquor into your mug and get a passable beverage, but after your umpteenth season doing so, you may be interested in learning a few new ways to booze up your cider. Here are a few fresh tricks to try with an old favorite this season.

Spike With a Seasonal Spirit

Bourbon is the workhorse of the cooler months, as it reliably supports warming spices and fall flavors. But other types of booze capitalize even more on seasonal feels. Fireball is especially handy if you want a cinnamon-forward cider, while a fruity spirit like calvados or Applejack would evoke scenic strolls through an orchard. There’s no need to stop at one, though. Split the base between a potent whiskey or rum, a spice-laden amaro, and/or sherry for a cider that’s rife with rich, layered flavor.

Swap Apple Cider for Pear Liqueur

Apples get all the attention come fall, especially when it comes to cider. But pears are equally great for autumnal boozing, and pear eaux de vies and liqueurs open up a world of flavor-pairing opportunities that wouldn’t be available with apples alone. Spiced rum plays well off pear’s creamier base notes, while prickly pear from the Southwest matches perfectly with tequila.  

Add Citrus for a Whiskey Sour-Esque Cider

Citrus twists are go-to garnishes on a bevy of classic cocktails to add a light acidic tinge, so steeping those slices in hot cider infuses the warm liquid with bright, fruity notes. Add orange slices to a bourbon-based cider for an Old Fashioned-inspired warm drink, or try lemon in a rye cider for a Whiskey Sour take.

Infuse It With Tea

As your cider simmers away on the stovetop, slide in some tea bags—which will have plenty of time to infuse as you prep your Instagrammable mugs, ready your knit blanket and cue the looping video of a crackling fireplace. Double down on the spice with chai tea and rye whiskey, or smooth out the herbal botanicals of gin using chamomile or lemon.

Perk It up With Spicy Spirits

The typical assortment of mulled cider spices add zing and pep to spiked cider, but we have something bolder in mind. Take the heat up a notch with a spicy base like Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur or Tanteo Chipotle Tequila.

Use an Alternative Sweetener

There’s nothing worse for a blended batch of cider than too much acid. Because it already contains sharp flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg, sweetness is important to give the cider balance and weight. While honey is a quick fix (both for cider and cold weather blues), try experimenting with other sweeteners. Maple syrup and booze go great together, but you could also consider thicker options like molasses-heavy blackstrap rum, date syrup combined with punchy scotch, or rye bread-like buckwheat honey paired with brandy.

Top With Bubbly

A topping of Champagne or prosecco makes everything better, including fall’s zippy ciders. Don’t wait until New Year’s to bust out the bubbly because fizzy cider is a perfect way to celebrate the season.

Blend in Pumpkin Butter or Syrup

It’s officially decorative gourd season, so it’s time to honor the pumpkin—whether you whip in pumpkin butter with an immersion blender or batch up some pumpkin syrup to use all season. Pair pumpkin with mezcal for a Mexican mole-like cider, add a glug of rye for a boozy pumpkin pie flavor, or make the drink extra rich with dark rum and thick pumpkin butter.