Mulled Apple Cider came around 40 – 50 AD when the Romans made it to what is modern day England. Brewed apple cider was a popular Celtic drink in the area and the invading forces brought it back with them to Rome. The Romans had a tradition of brewing herbs into their wine (Hippocras) for flavor and medicinal properties. They applied that to cider and thus mulled or spiced cider was created. Read my apple cider ingredient description first but pick the cider you want based on what you want your final product to be most like and how you want to layer your flavors. Personally, I think the sparkling cider apple juice stuff is trash. Just dump that one. The orchard unfiltered apple juice stuff is pretty good but also just a little too sweet. So you can’t really add your own sweetener like maple syrup or honey etc. This limits your ability to add complexity. I personally prefer to make this with a semi dry cider beer or still apple wine. These give you room to build more of your own flavors but also bring a nice brewed and aged taste that the unfiltered stuff lacks. Normal cider style beer works well for this too. The bubbles dissipate after a few minutes and your just left with essentially a still apple wine. So before your next holiday party get a variety pack of ciders. See what you like and then buy a six pack of the stuff. Also a six pack is almost equal to 3 bottles of wine, so keep that in mind, and don’t just add all 6 beers or adjust accordingly.
Next up is spices. Long story short just read my mulling spices description. It can be summed up as don’t add too much and try and stick to just 4 different spices. Think cooking, you wouldn’t add a shit ton of salt or pepper to your fried eggs. It would be too much so you just do a light sprinkle. Same thing with this, just add 2 or 3 cloves, 3 cinnamon sticks, etc. a little bit goes a very long way.
Next up is cooking. Most folks do this in a crock pot and for that I would just set it to warm. high, low and simmer are all too hot. Alcohol burns off at 173 f (78 c) and high, low and simmer all go to around 180 – 200 f. High just gets there faster than low and simmer, but warm only goes to about 160 f. You can do a slow cooker if you want but keep in mind you will burn off most of the booze even at the warm temp if you cook it for a long period of time. I think it cooks better if you do it faster in a normal stove top pot. Turn on the fire, pour it into the pot and quickly bring it up to heat. If you have a thermometer then stop around 160 or till you start to see a light vapor coming off the top. Once your hooch is up to temp, drop it to low, and add your sweetener and spices and then cook if for just 20 minutes. Most of the good flavors in your spices will come out in those first few minutes. Turn off the heat, add your bourbon, and serve. And that’s it. Serve it, put a lid on it, put it in a thermos, reheat it when you want more a little later, but stop the long term higher temperature cooking. Some folks cook this stuff for hours but I think that’s a little excessive. You won’t get anymore good flavor out of it and you will just burns off booze.