Hot Apple Cider

spiced hot apple cider

Hot apple cider is one of my favorite holiday recipes. It's basically a New-Year's gathering must in my books. So sweet, fragrant, delicious, cozy, and so, so easy to throw together. It's literally ready in minutes and is fun to improvise with too, even if you just rely on basic pantry ingredients to spice things up.

holiday hot apple cider

It also happens to be one of those things I never thought to share a recipe for, since it seems mostly common knowledge and I don't exactly follow a recipe -- I usually just throw stuff together from whatever I've got around. This Christmas I was asked to bring a last minute dessert. It was a bit of a hopeless situation since I had nothing ready-made, given I've just arrived back from a road trip the night before, and really had no time/ingredients to make anything on the spot. I couldn't even find anything at the grocery store that everyone at the gathering could enjoy (given different food sensitivities).

After wandering back and forth between the vegan ice cream freezer and the gluten-free shelf at the grocery shop I pretty well gave up on dessert since nothing seemed to be working and decided I'll just make some cider instead. And while it wasn't exactly "dessert," it satisfied all the necessary dietary restrictions for those present, was sweet enough to end the meal, satisfied the cider lovers at the table, and surprised a number of people who exclaimed hot apple cider was "amazing" and "so delicious" -- turns out not everyone has tried this quintessential cold weather drink before!

And so I figured I might as well put my cider recipe up just in case not everyone has tried it and might be curious. In truth, it's one of those recipes that's not really a recipe at all -- more like a get your basics in order and improvise to your heart's desire kind of a treat :)

hot cider star anise and citrus spices

A basic cider consists of a base of apple cider, which is different to apple juice in North America in that it's unfiltered and unsweetened, and sometimes sold unpasteurized; conversely "apple juice" here is often made from concentrate, is sweetened and filtered (you want it to be thick and unfiltered for this type of recipe ideally). The only ingredient in the cider should be apples (nothing else!). And just a quick note before we move on here: please don't confuse apple cider with apple cider vinegar -- they are two completely different products. Trust me, you don't want to make this with apple cider vinegar! :S

Another key component of a hot cider is the warming spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, star anise, etc. A touch of citrus is also often added, which helps to break up the sweetness a little. This can be done in the form of a few slices of lemon or orange, or the addition of dried orange or lemon peel. This year I've been making my cider with dehydrated lime slices I made a while back (so they were handy), and can attest that lime works great too :)

I've also enjoyed throwing in some mulberries into my hot apple cider recipe. This part is not traditional at all, but I tried it once and loved it so it stuck around since. They add a nice mild flavor and sweetness to the drink. You can leave them in for people to enjoy, or can filter them out at the end if you prefer a smooth drink. I find leaving them in makes a lovely addition though.

It is customary to add a sweetener to hot apple cider, but I don't find it necessary -- it's sweet enough as is with the mulberries and apples in there for me, but feel free to adjust sweetness to taste. The sweetness level might vary depending on the brand too, as different brands can have rather different ciders (depending on the apples they use and their processing system -- some are thicker and "murkier," some have a richer flavor, and some are sweeter than others).

hot apple cider with cinnamon, anise, and citrus

If you've been wondering how to make a hot apple cider, that's all there is to it! Hope this quick and easy holiday favorite makes its way to your kitchen at some point during the chilly season :)

spiced hot apple cider

Hot Apple Cider

  • Author: Audrey @ Unconventional Baker
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings
  • Category: Holiday
  • Method: Stove-Top
  • Cuisine: Drinks


Hot apple cider makes a delicious cozy wintery treat, and is an easy holiday favorite to throw together. This version is spruced up with the addition of mulberries and warming spices.



1. Place all ingredients (except maple syrup, if using) into a medium-large pot.

2. Bring the contents to a gentle boil on the stove on the medium-high setting, stirring occasionally. Then turn down the heat to medium-low and allow the mixture to simmer for 5 mins or so. Once done simmering, taste to make sure the mixture is sweet enough, and if not add a bit of maple syrup to taste, stir it in, and let the mixture simmer for another minute.**

3. If you prefer, carefully strain the mixture at this point to remove large spices and citrus, etc. I usually prefer not to strain mine, and just serve it as is (assuming those served to will know not to chomp down on the star anise pods, of course!).

4. Serve hot and enjoy!


*You can use 2L or just under that. My amount is based on the bottled apple cider I get most often which comes in 945ml bottles. Note: the only ingredient in the cider should be apples. The term "sweet apple cider" refers to the type of apples used resulting in a sweeter cider, and doesn't mean the cider should come sweetened with anything else. Last but not least, do not confuse apple cider with apple cider vinegar -- as they are completely different products.

**If you're using sweet apple cider, I find the maple syrup is unnecessary here (even though a sweetener is a common addition to cider -- mine always comes out plenty sweet with just the apple cider and mulberries). But brands might vary, so... that's why I recommend tasting the cider at the end and if it seems like it might not be sweet enough add a bit of maple syrup to taste. I recommend using a dark (and ideally smokey flavored syrup) for best results.

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