Why It Works
- Assembling a custom blend of fresh spices, rather than relying on a jar of generic "mulling spice," translates to more powerful flavor.
- Cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, cloves, and star anise all work together well to bring out the natural flavor of apples.
- Toasted whole spices provide better flavor than ground and are easier to remove from the cider.
- Just a spoonful of alcohol enhances the cider's fruitiness, without making it overly boozy.
There's more to mulling good cider than swirling in a couple sticks of cinnamon. This spice blend yields a balanced, flavorful cider while remaining true to the base flavor of apples. You can customize it to your own tastes (using more brandy, for example, for a harder brew), but the star anise, coriander, and cardamom—all friends of apples—are what make it stand out.
This recipe is formulated for a small batch of cider; you can multiply it if need be, though your steeping time may vary.
- 3 (3-inch) sticks cinnamon
- 5 cloves
- 4 cardamom pods, pressed until they just crack open
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander seed
- 1/2 star anise pod
- 1 quart (900ml) high-quality apple cider
- Optional additions (see note): 1 tablespoon (15ml) brandy, raw sugar, lemon zest
- Extra brandy, lemon slices, and/or freshly grated nutmeg, for serving (optional)
Turn slow cooker to high and add apple cider. Cover and set aside.
Heat a small skillet on medium-high and add spices. Toast, stirring frequently, until spices are fragrant and coriander seeds begin to darken. Set aside and either transfer to a reusable spice bag or add loose to cider.
Cover and let cider mull on high (reduce if it begins to bubble) for about 4 hours, or until spice flavor is well infused. Ten minutes before serving, add brandy. Add sugar, 1 rounded teaspoon at a time, if cider is too tart (sugar will bring out flavor of spices if needed).
Serve plain, or with a slice of lemon, extra brandy, or a small grating of nutmeg. If keeping warm for service, remove spices.
Ciders can vary greatly in sweetness and acidity. Adjust the final seasoning of the mulled cider with a spoonful of alcohol to enhance the fruity aromas, raw sugar to bring out the spice, and/or lemon to balance the sweetness. We recommend cider-friendly liquors, such as brandy, bourbon, or dark rum.