Fast forward a single month, though, and I’m ready for cable-knit sweaters, plaid scarves, shearling-lined boots, and as much apple cider I can handle. Where most people are infusing everything in sight with pumpkin spice right now, I’m all about indulging in apple cider doughnuts, apple cider jelly, and hot apple cider cocktails in place of a traditional toddy.
And though the pumpkin spice craze will pass by Black Friday, the warmth of apple cider can continue throughout the holiday season and even last the entire winter when you’re drinking it in cocktail form.
Instead of traditional mulled cider, this warm apple cider drink gets its depth of flavor thanks to Nocino, an Italian liqueur distilled from walnuts. Don’t be tempted to substitute amaretto, as not all nut liqueurs are the same. Where amaretto is cloyingly sweet, nocino has a woodsier, spicier bite, and is more akin to allspice dram in that regard. It’s widely available at wine and liquor stores (and online, of course.) Nut-allergic imbibers can substitute vanilla rum—we use Brinley Gold Shipwreck Vanilla Rum in these parts.
This recipe was adapted from a drink presented by mixologist Sarah Deming during a cocktail-and-cheese pairing course at New York’s iconic temple of dairy, Murray’s Cheese on Bleecker Street. As such, it cries out for a wedge or two of accompaniment, contrasting the nutty sweetness with something sharp and savory. As it’s one of my favorite blue cheeses, Jasper Hill’s Bayley Hazen Blue is my top recommendation, as well as the pairing chosen in the class.
If you’re not a blue cheese fan, try another pairing with a little bit of nutty funk, like a bandaged or clothbound Cheddar or an aged sheep’s milk cheese like Ossau Iraty or Idiazabal. (And for more cheese and drink pairings, pick up The Art of the Cheese Plate: Pairings, Recipes, Style, Attitude by Tia Keenan. It’ll expand your cheese world and blow your mind with recipes for accompaniments like lemon-chamomile fudge, cheddar cheese straw brick, and poppy seed caviar.)
Hot Mulled Cider
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes
Makes 2 drinks
- 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) apple cider
- 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) Nocino walnut liqueur
- 2 tablespoons (1 fluid ounce) rye whiskey or bourbon
- fresh nutmeg for garnish
Heat the cider in a small saucepan until steaming. Remove from the heat and pour in the Nocino and whiskey.
Divide the drink between 2 heated mugs or other heat-proof glasses.
Grate fresh nutmeg over each to garnish and make sure to take a big sniff before you sip.