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This spiced hot apple cider is easy and makes your kitchen smell incredible! It’s the ideal warming fall and winter drink.

Hot apple cider

If there’s any winter or fall drink that makes the cold better, it’s hot apple cider. It makes your kitchen smell amazing. It has the power to gather people, cupping their hands around the warm mugs. The aroma can lift you out of the winter blues, and it makes any party that much cozier (especially Thanksgiving or Christmas). Hold it around a fire, and you’ll feel like you can move mountains. Here’s an easy recipe for how to make hot apple cider on the stovetop! It only takes 1 hour and it’s totally hands off.

Got a slow cooker or Instant Pot? Try our Slow Cooker Apple Cider.

Hot apple cider

What type of apple cider to buy?

Apple cider is a non-alcoholic drink made from raw apple juice. There are a few types of cider you might find at the store; here’s a breakdown:

  • Unfiltered vs filtered: Apple cider is sold unfiltered, which has the pulp and sediment, and filtered, which is basically like apple juice. For the most authentic hot apple cider flavor, choose unfiltered! If you can find local apple cider: even better.
  • Pasteurized vs unpasteurized: Pasteurizing apple cider makes it more shelf stable. If it’s unpasteurized, it can turn into hard cider or apple cider vinegar over time, so you should drink it within 2 weeks. Unpasteurized cider has more risk of bacteria, so we recommend pasteurized.

Mulling spices for hot apple cider

This hot apple cider recipe is made with whole spices that infuse a cozy flavor. The flavor of cider before cooking is crisp and apple-y. But when you taste afterwards, it’s warm and nuanced. The mulling spices give big flavor. Use the whole versions of these spices, not ground. Here are the spices you need:

  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Nutmeg
  • Allspice berries
  • Cloves
  • Star anise

Star anise is the most unique of all these spices: you may not have cooked with it before. It’s star-shaped and should be available at most grocery stores. You can also buy star anise online.

Mulled cider spices

How to make the best hot apple cider

Can I just heat up apple cider? Yes and no. The secret to this hot apple cider recipe is in the spices. You’ll simmer the cider with whole spices to get an incredible warm flavor. Here’s what you’ll do:

  • Toast whole spices before simmering. Use our blend of whole mulling spices (below) and toast them for a few minutes before adding the apple cider. Toasting the spices helps to release even more of their flavor (plus the kitchen will smell amazing).
  • Warm for 1 hour: don’t simmer or boil! Then you’ll add the apple cider and warm on very low heat. You can have very small bubbles, but don’t simmer and certainly don’t boil! Simmering or boiling reduces the liquid, so you’d have less overall at the end. The point here is to infuse the apple cider with spices: not to reduce it.
  • Strain off particulate, or stir to re-incorporate. Through the cook time, you’ll notice that particulate starts to gather on top of the cider. This is normal: in most jugs of apple cider you’ll buy at the store you’ll see particulate floating in the bottom. You can skim this part off after cooking: or just stir it to re-incorporate it into the cider.
Hot apple cider

Garnish after you make it!

Don’t make the mistake of simmering this hot apple cider with fruit. Why? The fruit doesn’t add a ton of flavor, but the worst part: the color fades and it floats to the bottom. So, make sure to garnish the cider at the end so that it keeps it’s color and floats on top! Here are some garnish ideas:

  • Sliced orange adds a subtle citrus note.
  • Whole cranberries add no flavor at all, but just look pretty!
  • Other ideas: Try rosemary sprigs, diced apple, or sliced lemon.

You absolutely don’t need to garnish this hot apple cider at all! Once you’re done warming the cider and spices for 1 hour, you can drink it immediately. But adding the garnish takes it over the top and makes it look vibrant and beautiful!

Hot apple cider

Variation: make spiked hot apple cider!

Want to step up this hot apple cider? Spike it! Adding a hint of rum to this hot apple cider is seriously good. Alex and I recommend it because it adds a nice subtle warmth and round flavor to the drink. The quantity in the recipe below is very modest, so it adds just a warming hint in each sip. If you’d like a stronger rum taste, go to Spiked Apple Cider.

Entertaining tip: If you’re serving spiked hot cider to a crowd of people, let guests to add their own rum! The quantity below equates to only ½ tablespoon (1 ½ teaspoons) rum per glass. All you need is a small swig!

More drinks with apple cider

This hot apple cider is perfect for fall and winter when the cozy drink cravings set in! Here are a few more fall drinks and winter drinks that feature cider:

This recipe is…

Vegetarian, gluten-free, plant-based, vegan, and dairy-free.

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Mulled cider

Spiced Hot Apple Cider!

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x


This spiced hot apple cider is easy and makes your kitchen smell incredible! It’s the ideal warming fall and winter drink. Alternate method: Try Slow Cooker Apple Cider.


  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 10 allspice berries
  • 10 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • ½ gallon apple cider*
  • ¼ cup rum, optional
  • 1 small orange, for garnish
  • Whole cranberries, for garnish


  1. Add the nutmeg, allspice, cloves, star anise and cinnamon to the bottom of a pot. Toast over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant.
  2. Turn the heat to low. Pour in the apple cider and bring to below a simmer, just barely bubbling. Warm for 1 hour on low heat (don’t let it simmer). Skim off any particulate if desired, or stir to re-incorporate it.
  3. If using, stir in the rum. Garnish with orange slices and cranberries, then serve.
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Hot Apple Cider

Last updated: September 2020

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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