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Every Saturday during the fall, the farmers' market in my neighborhood becomes an urban orchard, with countless varieties of apples spilling out of rickety crates. Aside from the usual sack of baking apples and sweet snacking apples I buy, I stop at the hot cider stand. Something about the sharpness of the air and the cutting edge of cold wind turns warm, unfiltered cider into an antidote.
The antidote becomes even more powerful with a splash of liquor. The following five recipes are spiked with spirits that are probably part of your existing arsenal. Other less usual ones, like Bénédictine, will become favorites once you've tried them.
I began with warm cider and fortified it with spirits that I'm familiar with and order frequently at bars, like Campari and bourbon in the Orchard Boulevardier. For another mix, I looked for a way to add heat with sharp ingredients like ginger liqueur and freshly cracked black pepper. The final results are spiced and soothing, ideal for settling into the season.
For these recipes, you should use unfiltered fresh cider—the kind you find at your local orchard or farmers' market, or in the refrigerated case at your grocery store.
When we begin to hide against the brusque snap of the weather, there is no better remedy than a hot drink that will slowly begin to bring a tingling sensation to the fingertips and then wash us over completely with warmth. Fresh apple cider, ruddy and cloudy, is best served heated with additional fire added with spices and a splash of spirits. In this case, applejack does the trick—we recommend Laird's from New Jersey for mixing in.
Tart apple bits and dried cranberries, along with clementine slices, enhance this classic, along with coriander, cloves, and black peppercorns. This recipe comes from my recent book, Winter Cocktails.
The simple yet sophisticated Boulevardier is a warming (and delicious) cocktail in its original iteration, but stir bracing rye and bittersweet Campari into hot apple cider and you've got an extra layer of comfort. This drink recipe serves two, but we wouldn't blame you for going through a few mugs of it while curled up next to a crackling fire.
Salty Maple Buttered Cider
Hot buttered rum is a staple of the cold months, and for good reason: butter blends perfectly into the dark, rich rum for a soothing blend. In this drink, cider is added to the mix, along with that other fall standard, maple syrup, and vanilla bean. A sprinkle of Maldon salt and a hint of lemon juice round out the flavors. It's a melt-in-your mouth treat.
Peppery Ginger Cider
For those who appreciate sweet apple cider but need more bite than that mellow drink provides, this warm cocktail, spiked with your favorite bourbon, offers the sharpness of ginger. To underscore that subtle burn, we've added cracked black pepper on the top of each mug.
This seasonal Champagne cocktail is enriched with a splash of apple cider (and made more affordable by using fizzy Prosecco instead of the fancy French stuff.) Bénédictine offers herbal, honeyed flavors, and it's a natural mate for fresh cider and sparkling wine.
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