When hosting friends and family at home, it’s understandable that hosts direct so much of their focus to the foods they plan to serve. The main course is often the focal point and most memorable aspect of a dinner party, and that’s true whether the get-together is a backyard barbecue, a holiday meal with the family or a formal affair with colleagues.
Food might be a focal point, but guests also will need something to drink. Traditional spirits like wine and cocktails are the standard, but hosts who want to get a little creative should not hesitate to do so. When choosing a special beverage, timing is everything. Guests will want to cool down on warm summer evenings, so something cold and refreshing can make for the perfect signature cocktail. When hosting on nights when the mercury has dropped, a warm beverage can heat up guests in a matter of minutes. On such nights, hosts can serve this version of “Hot Mulled (Sherried) Apple Cider” courtesy of Laurey Masterton’s “The Fresh Honey Cookbook” (Storey). One added benefit to Masterton’s recipe is it can produce a welcoming winter aroma, helping hosts establish a warm ambiance for the festivities.
Hot Mulled Apple Cider
YIELD: Serves 16
1 gallon apple cider
1 orange, unpeeled, cut into slices
1⁄4 cup whole cloves
4 sticks cinnamon
1⁄4 cup honey
1 cup sherry (optional)
Combine the cider, orange slices, cloves, cinnamon, and honey in a large pot over medium heat. If you are picky about things floating in your cider, make a little bundle out of cheesecloth and place the cinnamon and cloves inside before adding to the cider. I like to chew on cloves, so I just toss everything in. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer over low heat for an hour or so to spread these lovely winter aromas around your home. If you’re serving it to adults, add the sherry. It might make everyone want to go sledding!