With Thanksgiving right around the corner I'm all about the easy upgrade. And by that I mean those little shortcuts that instantly uplift the ordinary, making mealtimes beautiful of course, but also a little more special than the time on my hands really allows (read: holiday prep craziness in the studio).
A few years back I made fresh apple cider with my mom from apples we picked that same day. It was amazing. But that's the short version of what was a 7 hour round-trip car ride out to the middle of Nowhere, North Carolina to pick a small fortune of apples, which we then cored, peeled, cut, boiled, mashed, strained, seasoned, and simmered down to apple cider. It was grueling, and yea, delicious, but it took an entire day to make the damn stuff. I love that we did it that once but I totally don't have that kind of time this year for a repeat, and quite honestly I probably don't have the patience now that I know what I'm in for. So store bought cider it is! And with these upgrades I don't even miss the homemade kind.
9 Ways to Up Your Cider Game:
1) Serve cider warm, even if you're just nuking it for yourself in a mug for 30 seconds. The same cider tastes completely different when it's hot, making for a great single serving seasonal treat, with minimal effort.
2) Serve each glass with a cinnamon stick stirrer.
3) Garnish with an orange peel and cranberries in each glass.
4) Use a pre-made mulling spice mixture (or even Pumpkin Pie Spice) and simmer over the stovetop to add flavor depth (and make the entire house smell incredible at the same time.)
5) Create a cider cocktail: Any of the above add-ins are fair game and encouraged here. Bourbon and red wine are my favorite additions to hot cider, while gin and champagne are my go-tos for cold.
6) Use cocktail bitters and shrubs to emphasize the tart and spicy flavors in the cider, while a splash of maple syrup brings out the sweet.
7) Serving a crowd? Serve the cider in a warm crockpot with a ladle for a casual comfy vibe and encourage guests to serve themselves.
8) Serving just a few? Serve from a small, fancy footed bowl, even one that's not necessarily made for beverages like the compote bowl I used in this post. This works for both cold and hot cider. Just be sure to temper the glass with warm water if you decide to serve hot cider so you don't shock the glass. With the wide rim of this type of bowl the cider will cool quickly, so I like this trick when it's more about the initial visual impact and quick serving of the cider before it can get cold. If you're serving cold cider then none of this matters, just enjoy how pretty the golden cider looks in your pretty glass bowl.
9) And my final tip goes for all beverages, not just cider-- get creative with serving cups, use champagne flutes, coupes, or graphic gilded lowballs for cold, and assorted vintage teacups for your hot. Your guests will always enjoy a little extra pampering and with glasses that pretty your cider game will be waaaaaaay up, even if it is store-bought.