1tablespoonbrown sugarplus more, to taste (see note 3)
16ouncesbrandy(see note 4)
orange slicesfor garnish
In a large saucepan over medium heat, toast cinnamon stick pieces, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and cloves, shaking occasionally until fragrant, about 1 to 3 minutes.
To the saucepan, slowly add cider, orange zest, and sugar. Simmer until flavors meld, about 30 minutes. Using a wide shallow spoon, skim any foam that may come to the surface.
Prepare a fine mesh strainer with a coffee filter or a triple layer of cheesecloth and place over large bowl. Strain mixture through prepared strainer. Discard solids. Return cider mixture to saucepan and stir in brandy. Serve in mugs with orange slices for garnish.
Spices: A sachet is a fancy term for spices tied up in a piece of cheesecloth with twine. You could also use a tea ball or loose leaf tea bag to hold them. It makes it easier to pull these small ingredients out of the cider later. Or, you can just add everything straight to the pot since you strain the cider at the end. Either way, these get toasted before they're added to the liquid to awaken their flavors.
Apple cider: Cider is available at orchards and grocery stores on a seasonal basis, usually from early fall through the winter. You can also make your own apple cider any time of year, and it's delicious.
Brown sugar: Takes the edge off the booze and adds richness. Add more or less to taste depending on how sweet your apples are and what you like.
Brandy: I love the flavor of brandy and apple cider, but bourbon or spiced rum works too.
Yield: This recipe makes twelve 1-cup servings (and is easily doubled or tripled for your crowd).
Storage: Mulled cider can be refrigerated for up to a week. Just bring it to a simmer before serving.
Garnish: Orange wheels, a curled orange peel, thin apple slices, a cinnamon stick, or nothing at all.
Slow cooker: Make the cider on the stove and reheat in a crockpot on LOW for easy open house serving.
How to crack spices: Keep whole peppercorns and coriander from flying everywhere by tucking them into a plastic bag, placing the bag on a stable surface, and firmly rocking the flat bottom of a heavy pan over them until they break apart.