Mulled Cider

When the leaves begin to turn and the air turns chill, when the fields are full of pumpkins and browning cornstalks, then it is time for cider. It should be the official drink of autumn, if you ask me. When I see it arrive on the shelves at the store, then I know, beyond any conceivable doubt, that summer days are now behind me.

Last night we had our first frost warning, and the air turned brisk with the hint of winter on its breath. The wood-stove was lit for the first time, and to celebrate we put a pan of cider filled with spice on top to bubble away and fill the house with its comforting sweetness and warmth. I must say, the scent of wood smoke, the feel of a warm blazing fire, and the scent of apple marrying with cloves and cinnamon is one of the real pleasures of life. It almost (and I say almost) makes one excited about the cold.

While plain ol’ cider is wonderful, mulled cider is a thing perfectly suited in all ways for a chilly day. To hold the warm mug in your hands, inhale steam laced with notes of apple and orange peel, taste sweetness and feel the spice in your belly – is warming in a deeply comforting way. We make it often on those brisk autumn evenings, sipping it huddled next the stove and listening the crackling of wood and wind howling down the chimney.  It is a yearly tradition, a ritual.

Aside from the usual warming spices, I like to throw in a handful of some rooty goodness as well: a little astragalus and Siberian ginseng, two roots that bolster the immune system and help the body adapt to the stress of seasonal changes. Both taste slightly sweet and mostly bland, so they lend little in flavor, but lots in goodness. Paired with all those blood moving, digestive fire kindling and antioxidant packed spices, mulled cider is not only delicious but a health-tonic as well!

A variety of spices can go into mulled cider, and it’s really up to personal preference (or for me, fishing around the spice cabinet and seeing what calls) what you will put in.  While the ingredients vary from night to night in our house, they most often include the following: a few thin slices of fresh ginger;  the zest of an orange; a few cinnamon sticks; a few cloves and star-anise pods; a bit of mace; a few juniper and allspice berries; a vanilla pod and a handful of astragalus and Siberian ginseng roots.  I’ve also been known to throw in some hawthorn berries, a few cardamom pods or even a bay leaf when the mood takes me.

All the ingredients are put into a pan with a half-gallon of cider, and left to simmer on very low heat (or perched atop the wood-stove) for a good 20-30 minutes with a cover on.  Once it’s mulled to your liking, strain it into mugs and top off with a bit of rum if it’s an extra cold night.

Cheers to the beginning of autumn!


  1. Cider is by far my favourite tipple – it is so tasty, warming and effective. However, it;s so bad for you I’ve tried to stop drinking it. I don’t think I’d be able to resist this though, it sounds too good – perfect for the time of year too. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Danielle Charles says:

      Hi there frugal feeding,
      Actually here in the US, cider typically is not alcoholic – us prudish Americans like “sweet” cider and tend to pasteurize it so that it doesn’t ferment. But alcoholic or otherwise, I can’t completely agree with you on cider being bad for you. While I don’t think it’s something we should all be drinking gallons of every day (mainly due to the high sugar, or in your case, alcohol content), a glass or two here or there is in all actuality beneficial to our health! Like apples, cider (the unfiltered juice of the apple) provides a good deal of antioxidant phenols as well as potassium, iron and pectin (I’ve written a post on the health benefits of apples that you can read here if you’re interested). It actually has more of all those things than apple juice, which is filtered and refined. And, one other fun fact is that the spices added to mulled cider (especially cinnamon) help to modulate blood sugar absorption so that the high sugar load of the drink isn’t quite so detrimental to your blood sugar balance. Anyway, hopefully now you can enjoy some guilt free 🙂

      Thanks so much for your comment!

  2. OOOOOOh! yes please I would love a cup of your sweet smelling brew…

  3. Yum!! I love mulled cider. We live next door to the National Cider collection at Middle Farm and they have an apple and cider festival each autumn… yet another reason to lure you to this side of the pond next year. 🙂

    • Danielle Charles says:

      Oh I think I hardly need another one! Sounds like SO much fun, though. I’ll cross my fingers for next year…


  4. Neat! We had our first frost also. (It was mild enough not to kill anything– except maybe mosquitoes?)

    I must say it’s becoming a trial to find raw cider anymore. People are so scared of everything now that laws are being passed requiring pasteurization. If the cider is heat-treated, it won’t ferment properly. I like it just a bit buttery-sweet-tart. Pasteurized, it just goes putrid. *sigh* If it comes to it, I *will* press my own apples dangit!

    Nice recipes! I’ll have to throw in the astragalus if I can find it. 🙂

    • Danielle Charles says:

      Hello Kieron,
      Glad the only victim of your frost was the mosquitoes! I feel your frustrations about the raw cider. So much better by a landslide! When we lived in Washington state the laws were a little more lax on pasteurization and raw cider (along with raw milk) was easy to find. There was one orchard we used to frequent that even made all different varieties of raw cider: granny smith, honeycrisp… my favorite was the pink lady. Those were the days! Alas, things are different on the East coast. I guess we may just have to press our own!

      P.S. Astragalus can be found in most herb shops, but if you have trouble you can order it through Mountain Rose Herbs


  5. Ooooo this looks delicious!! What a great way to sneak in ginseng and astragalus. I read Michael Pollan’s “Botany of Desire” earlier on in the year and have not been able to look at an apple the same way since. Not only nourishing but so deeply connected to our own story – which in my opinion makes it all the more health giving. Despite the beautiful blooming Spring down in Australia, I’m a tad envious of not being able to cosy up next to the fireside with warmed spiced cider!

    • Danielle Charles says:

      Botany of Desire is a great book isn’t it! I have such a vivid picture of Johnny Appleseed floating down the Ohio river on his raft full of saplings from that book that I can’t help but think of whenever I have an apple. I love what you say about them being connected to our story – so true! I think that’s a factor of the food we eat that shouldn’t be under-estimated: what we eat should give us a sense of connection to who we are and where we come from. Anyhow, for now you’ll have to enjoy the apple blossoms until autumn comes your way!


  6. Mmmmm you made me want to go start a pot! lol! I am so lucky I have some friends with an orchard and they make the best cider I have ever tasted:) I love mulled cider and you have suggested excellent choices to add in. Last year I did a nice mulled by first cooking down and straining so fresh cranberries, then adding the apple cider and extra goodies…heavenly:) That’s it! I must go start some now! LOL! Will think of you, Danielle xxxx

    • Danielle Charles says:

      I think I need to get some friends like that! Your idea with the cranberries sounds divine…


  7. Oh yes, do try and make friends with an orchardist! lol! xoxox you will like it with the cranberries Danielle!

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