The Unusual Spice In Ina Garten's Hot Apple Cider Changes Everything

Ina Garten's been quite the busy Barefoot Contessa of late. This past year she surprised us with revelations along the lines of her heretofore undiscovered passion for PB&Js (which she reenvisioned as a bar cookie) as well as the fact that keeping her mojo working as the pandemic dragged on required the assistance of entire pitchers of cosmopolitans (via Instagram) — evidently she wasn't averse to a wee bit of day drinking, either, since it was always five o'clock in quarantine time.

As the holiday season approached, Ina seemed to rekindle her festive spirits (as opposed to the distilled kind), even if she did have to downsize her traditional Thanksgiving celebration. She has shared her favorite holiday meal (just like the Grinch, she's partial to a bit of roast beast) and her best DIY gift idea (homemade vanilla, which, like her cosmos, is made with plenty of vodka). Best of all, however, is the fact that she gifted us all with a new cookbook with the oh-so-2020-appropriate title of Modern Comfort Food. One recipe from this book that she also shares on her website is something that would be appropriate for any small (or even solo) holiday celebration: hot spiced apple cider. This drink is a cold weather classic, but as usual Garten puts her own unique spin on it.

Ina Garten's mulled cider recipe

Garten's cider recipe starts with apple cider, of course — fresh, she specifies, but you take what you can get once apple season is over. (Her cookbook came out in October, and cider's often considered an autumnal beverage.) To this cider (fresh or otherwise) you add the typical cinnamon and cloves, but kick the heat up a notch with the unexpected addition of black peppercorns and then a twist of orange peel and some star anise, an increasingly popular spice in the foodie world. The drink is garnished with slices of fresh apples and oranges, making it look like a cidery sangria. Oh, and you can also chug in some bourbon if you wish. Rum might be nice, as well, although Ina herself posted on Instagram that the cider was plenty delicious with out any booze.

So how does it taste? The Kitchn threw together a batch in their kitchen-with-an-e and agreed with Ina that it was, indeed, delicious, although they apparently didn't bother with the alcohol-free version (cooking can be so stressful). They found that the anise, along with the usual cloves and cinnamon, made for a tasty but not overpowering flavor, while the orange peel kept the drink from being too sweet. It's easy to make, too, so if you're a mulled cider fan looking for a new twist on an old favorite, you should definitely give this recipe a try. After all, 70k+ Instagram likes wouldn't steer you wrong!