Expert Tips For Elevating Apple Cider With Unexpected Spices

Apple cider is the quintessential holiday drink. Its warming powers turn chilly weather into cozy nights, and it reminds us why we love the fall and winter. A traditional mulled apple cider recipe typically contains some combination of cinnamon, cloves, and star anise. Frequently, citruses like orange or lemon are used to give the drink tangy complexity. The warm spices, crisp apple, and citrus play off of one another to make the ultimate comfort drink. Apple cider isn't limited to these flavors, however, and it's inviting enough to let more unconventional spices into the mix.

Mashed asked multiple experts if they have any go-to additions for an apple cider spice mix, and their varied answers prove that apple cider can be spiced to meet any personal taste. These experts included Suzanne DeStio, sommelier and beverage director of One White Street; Max Green, bar director at Point Seven; Haera Shin, beverage director of Momofuku Noodle Bar and Majordomo; and Kavé Pourzanjani, co-owner of Paradise Lost.

Spiciness is an element many of these experts recommended adding. Shin, for example, loves "playing around with adding heat in the form of chili or cayenne pepper." A splash of spiciness can give cider an unexpected kick. Along a similar vein are Pourzanjani's picks: fennel seed and Szechuan peppercorn. This Chinese five-spice route creates a "complex and slightly savory cider," and the aromatic Szechuan peppercorn provides a tingling sensation different from chilis' more straightforward spice.

Cider can lean savory or sweet

Another way to round out apple cider is with fresh ginger. DeStio proposed that "allspice and fresh ginger add a really interesting dimension to spiked cider while still keeping with the traditional spiced flavor profile." Allspice berries and ginger's warming qualities match those of cinnamon and cloves, but fresh ginger brings an extra edge to the mix, whether the apple cider is spiked or not.

The experts gave a couple of suggestions on the sweeter side, too. Pourzanjani suggested a different variety of cinnamon to switch up the classics. According to him, the cinnamon that most people buy at the grocery store is cassia cinnamon, but Ceylon cinnamon "is a light, flakey bark with a more delicate and sweeter flavor and scent." Ceylon cinnamon pairs well with apple cider and lets the apples' sweetness shine through. Last of all, Max Green offered a creamy way to bolster apple cider's sweetness with "a fat tablespoon of vanilla buttercream frosting." This is a clever way to thicken up the beverage while adding vanilla for extra spice and sweetness.