Mulled cider is the very best cozy drink! Infused with spices like cinnamon and cloves, you can make it in a slow cooker or on the stove.
Here’s a recipe for gray days and chilly evenings by the fire: mulled cider! Not only will it lift your spirits, it makes your kitchen smell like a candle shop. Alex and I made it for friends the other day, and instantly everyone gathered around the pot, chattering and cupping their hands around the warm mugs. Yes, it cultivates community too! Mulled cider is great for entertaining (like Thanksgiving and Christmas), and it’s easy to make on the stove or a slow cooker. Ready to get started?
What are mulled cider spices?
Mulled cider is made with whole spices, which infuse the entire drink with that signature cozy flavor. If you taste straight apple cider, you’ll find the flavor is crisp and apple forward. But after simmering with mulling spices, the flavor blossoms into something warm and spiced. Because dried and ground spices would end up making the drink cloudy, you’ll use whole spices for the simmering. Mulled cider spices include:
- Cinnamon sticks
- Allspice berries
- Whole nutmeg
- Star anise
Star anise is the most unique of all these mulled cider spices. It’s star-shaped and is available at most grocery stores. If you can’t find it, you can also buy star anise online.
Tips for making the best mulled cider
While mulled cider isn’t rocket science, there are a few things to keep in mind when making this cozy drink. Here’s what makes this recipe your new go-to:
- Toast the spices first. Toasting the spices for a few minutes in the pot or a skillet helps to release even more of their flavor during the simmering time. (This kick starts the incredible aroma!)
- Garnish last. If you cook mulled cider with fruit like orange slices and apple slices, they’ll fall to the bottom and the color will fade. Instead, use them as a garnish after cooking: it looks beautiful for serving!
- Strain if desired. Some brands of apple cider have some particulate in the bottom of the jug. This is completely expected! You can strain off any particulate that rises to the top, or just stir to re-incorporate it.
Three methods: Stovetop, Slow Cooker, Instant Pot!
There are a few different ways to make mulled cider: each have pros and cons! Here’s a breakdown:
- Stovetop method: The quickest! Only takes 1 hour. The only thing is you’ll have to watch to make sure that it stays on the lowest warming setting: it shouldn’t even come to a simmer.
- Slow cooker method: Takes 3 hours. Totally hands off, it’s great for times when you can throw ingredients in the slow cooker while you prep other foods. Also, you can leave it on the warm setting and serve it right out of the Crock Pot.
- Instant Pot method: Same advantages as above! Use this version if you have a pressure cooker and not a slow cooker.
Step it up: make spiked mulled cider!
This mulled cider is fabulous on it’s own, but you can step it up by stirring in rum at the end! The rum adds a bit of warmth and takes it to another level. Spiked mulled cider is the perfect party drink! If you’re serving a party where not everyone is drinking, you could also leave out the rum and let guests add a splash to their own drinks. The quantity in the recipe below adds only 1/2 tablespoon rum per glass: so all you need is a small swig!
More cozy drinks
- Vegan Hot Chocolate or Gingerbread Hot Chocolate: No need for pre-made packets! Homemade hot chocolate is easy to make and turns out creamy and chocolatey.
- Apple Cider Sangria: This cozy sangria pairs sparkling apple cider with red wine, orange and cinnamon. In a word: wow.
- Apple Cider Mimosa: The perfect winter or fall brunch cocktail! Combine cider with champagne for a festive treat.
- Mulled Wine: Why not make mulled wine, too? Simmer red wine with orange zest, cloves, cinnamon sticks, allspice and honey. This cozy drink will warm you from the inside out!
This mulled cider is…
Vegetarian, gluten-free, plant-based, vegan, and dairy-free.Print
Mulled cider is the very best cozy drink! Infused with spices like cinnamon and cloves, you can make it in a slow cooker or on the stove (and enjoy that aroma!).
- 1 whole nutmeg
- 10 allspice berries
- 10 cloves
- 2 star anise
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 gallon apple cider*
- 1/4 cup rum, optional
- 1 small orange, for garnish
- Whole cranberries, for garnish
- Toast the spices: Add the nutmeg, allspice, cloves, star anise and cinnamon to the bottom of a pot (or to a skillet for Slow Cooker instructions). Toast over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant.
- Stovetop cooking instructions: 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.
- Slow Cooker & Instant Pot instructions: Place the apple cider in the slow cooker or Instant Pot (pressure cooker) with the spices. Cook on low for 3 hours OR Normal using the Instant Pot “Slow Cooker” setting.
- If using, stir in the rum. Garnish with orange slices and cranberries, then serve.
*Doubles easily, and fits into a standard slow cooker or Instant Pot.
- Category: Drink
- Method: Stovetop / Pressure Cooker
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: Mulled Cider, Hot Mulled Cider, Mulled Cider Spices, Mulled Cider Recipe
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.