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.
Slow cooker, small muslin spice bag (both optional)
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.