I have had several requests to provide a recipe for the apricot brandy with mulled cider that I have now mentioned twice. The problem is that I rarely have recipes as such. I have ingredients, and I have ways of preparing them, but I do not really measure anything, and I seldom make the same thing twice, so it is not always easy to describe exactly how I have made something. Here, however, is my best approximation of a recipe, along with similar approximations for two other hot drinks that I like to make.
Mulled Apple Cider and Apricot Brandy
Pour apple cider into a pot. Make certain that it is real apple cider, not the unreasonable facsimile of apple cider that is most often available through the supermarket. If you can see through it, if it does not have sediment on the bottom of the bottle, if it is made any further distant than a hundred miles from you, or if it has preservatives of any kind, it is not apple cider. Find a farmer’s market. Find a local farmer. Buy good cider. It will be worth the effort.
Add cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and roughly cracked whole nutmeg. The fresher the spices, the better. This means that they need to have been shipped well. Look for a reputable dealer. Try not to buy the little bags from the chain grocery stores. These spices usually taste like they are older than you are.
Bring the cider to just short of a boil and simmer until the taste is as strong as you like it. Remove it from the heat. Add apricot brandy until it bites back a little. I am no expert on brandies. I just use what I find in my local liquor store. If someone knows better, feel free to educate me.
I include hot chocolate for the simple reason that I am so horrified by the canned stuff that I am on something of a crusade to convert people to the homemade varieties. I am not sharing a recipe. I am proselytizing.
Pour milk into a pot and bring it to just below a boil. It should go without saying that it be whole milk, but I will say it anyway. Make it organic if you can.
You have two options at this point. Either grate unsweetened chocolate or add cocoa into the milk. In either case, make sure the chocolate is very good quality. There are few products where there is a greater difference between high quality and low. The milk should now be a nice brown colour and thicker in texture. It should also taste strongly and bitterly of chocolate.
Add confectioner’s sugar to taste. Resist the culturally inculcated tendency to add too much. The goal is not to make it sweet. The goal is to make it slightly less bitter. The chocolate taste should not just predominate, it should entirely dominate. You are making hot chocolate, not hot sugar.
Those who are a little adventurous can add crushed red chilies at this point. I think the chilies taste fabulous, but not everyone agrees with me. Be warned.
Hot Milk Toddy
Pour milk into a pot and bring it to just below a boil, like the hot chocolate.
Add the same spices as the mulled cider and simmer.
When the spices have steeped, add rum or whiskey, whatever your preference. It may seem a waste, but do use something reasonably good. The rum will give a warmer, sweeter taste, the whisky a drier, sharper one. If you are using whisky, avoid any of the seaside single malts. The salty, medicinal taste does not mix well with the milk. Choose something with a more balanced flavour. I like the 15 year Dalwhinnie, but I have also used more standard selections like Glenlivet and Glenfiddich.
If you have trouble with any of the instructions, you can always come by for some personal instruction. I will be more than happy to accommodate.