I know, spring is here. Portland’s actually been fairly sunny and dry, which buoys spirits and all that, but also makes me feel uneasy that we’re experiencing the wrong weather for the season. Yes, I’m a worrier. On the other hand, I can’t quite let go of cold-weather food and drink. This hot spiked vanilla cider quickly became this winter’s favorite beverage to serve company, and I think this is just about the latest in the season we can get away with it.
Let me tell you how perfect this beverage is for small parties. Imagine you’re having a few friends over for game night with just snacks and drinks. Hand them a steaming cup of vanilla sweet warm cider with a layer of honeyed cream on top as soon as they walk in the door. Your friends will think you’re the best hostess ever, even if you just set out a can of Pringles* for the snacks. Oh, and tell them you spiked their cider with bourbon? They’ll never want to leave. This would be highly effective for book club meetings, as well.
Or, serve this as a “drink for dessert” like we did last week. Our dinner was rather heavy, so I saw relief in our guests’ eyes I brought out steaming mugs of whipped cream-topped cider as dessert, with a small plate of rosemary shortbread cookies to accompany them.
Hot Spiked Vanilla Cider (adapted from Martha Stewart)
Yield: about 8 servings
1 vanilla bean
8 cups apple cider (if you can only find apple juice, that’ll work too)
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup bourbon
With a small knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. In a large pot, combine the scraped vanilla bean and its seeds, apple cider, brown sugar, and nutmeg and bring to a simmer. Simmer the mixture for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, whip the cream with an electric mixer. When it forms soft peaks, add the honey and whip a little longer to combine.
Strain the cider mixture, then stir in the bourbon. Ladle the beverage into mugs and top each with a dollop of the honeyed cream.
*I think the last time I ate Pringles might’ve been in middle school. Luckily, my sweet tooth is tempered by my ambivalence toward greasy savory treats like chips. However, when we hiked into a Panamanian rain forest to watch birds this January, our entrance fee to the forest included a selection of packaged snacks (strange, right?); I chose Snickers and Pringles. Because we were in the middle of a rain forest and food options, even in the town near the forest, were slim, we CHOMPED those Pringles. Mmm, I don’t think they’ll ever taste that good again.