Is there anything more comforting than a hot, sweet drink on a cool, crisp day? The gentle tickle of the rising steam as you rise it up to your face bringing with it the aromas of the drink. Hot chocolate is fantastic and tea is popular, but it’s apple season and time to let the mulling joy begin. I’ve always preferred mulled cider to mulled wine – not to slight the latter, but something about the tartness of the cider always made it feel like an apple crumble in a pot. It’s almost dangerously drinkable!
This particular variant pairs it with an incredibly easy blackberry syrup – just thick enough to keep it at the bottom of the glass, ready to kick itself up into a gorgeous gradient with a stir that gradually transitions from the apple to the blackberry end of the spectrum. The equilibrium point in the middle really highlights just how well these two fruits go together. Growing up in England with an apple tree in the garden and brambles just a short walk away, this tipple evokes an afternoon’s walk, foraging along the way for fruits to bring back to use in a dessert.
You’ll notice I’ve added some whipped cream to the top of the drink, a trick I learned a few years ago on a trip to Salem. If you’ve never tried it, the gut reaction is one of confusion. However, a moment’s extra thought and you must consider just how well cream goes with any apple based dessert! The cream sits on top, floating lightly and imbuing each warm, tart sip with a cooling, rounded blessing. The contrast is incredible and I highly recommend it.
Ingredients – for 4-5 small glasses
- 2 -3 pints apple juice / apple cider (Hard Cider, for those Stateside)
- Juice of 1 orange
- A few tbsp brown sugar
- 3-4 star anise (plus 1 each for serving)
- 1-2 cinnamon sticks (plus 1 each for serving)
- 2-3 bay beaves
- 1 tsp cloves
- Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
- Small handful juniper berries
- Optional whipped cream
For the blackberry syrup
- 1 tin blackberries in syrup
- 1 small punnet blackberries – around 15 or so
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- Add all of the ingredients for the cider to a large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer, covered, for at least 10 minutes but preferably more, stirring regularly to distribute the flavours. It can help to give the cloves, bay leaves, and juniper berries a little gentle crush/roll in the hands to get the oils going.
- If using a tin of blackberries, add the whole contents into the can to a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring and crushing the blackberries with the back of a spoon until the syrup has thickened to a golden-syrup consistency. If using whole blackberries, add them and the sugar to a saucepan with a few tbsp water to get things going. Heat, crushing and stirring, until you have a thick syrup.
- Strain the blackberry syrup and spoon into the bottom of a glass. Strain the cider and gently pour down the side of the glass to preserve the layers. Add a cinnamon stick and star anise to each glass. Optionally, gently spoon a dollop of whipped cream and a fresh grating of nutmeg.