One of my favorite hot cider recipes, Mulled Cranberry Apple Cider is warming and delicious without being too sweet. With a little rum – or even some red wine, too – you’ve got yourself a winning Christmas drink.

I first caught wind of the idea of hot cranberry cider on a Martha Stewart Thankgiving Special, over a decade ago. Time fliiiieeees man. But I digress.

Mulled Cranberry Apple Cider is good stuff, especially for the holidays, and – in my opinion for those over 21 – especially with rum. It’s perfect for if you prefer your Christmas drinks with alcohol, but also makes a super festive non-alcoholic Christmas drink. And because you add the booze directly to your mug, it’s great having a Crock Pot simmering on the counter for holiday entertaining, and everyone can partake – drinkers and non-drinkers alike.

Mulled Cranberry Apple Cider Ingredients

So what do we have in this festive Christmas drink? Here goes:

  • Cranberry juice – for a rosy red hue and holiday flair.
  • Apple cider – of course!
  • A clove-studded orange – Cloves are my favorite mulling spice. When you stick them in a whole orange, they release the oils in the peel for even more mulled goodness.
  • Cinnamon sticks – A mulled Christmas drink must!
  • Lemon peel – No pith, please. We like citrus without the bitter taste!
  • Honey – Completely optional (and for a vegan version, you can use Grade A maple syrup or sugar). Add only if you like your hot cranberry cider on the sweeter side.
  • Rum – Optional of course. Because what’s better than Mulled Cranberry Apple Cider? SPIKED Mulled Cranberry Apple Cider!

How to Make This Make Mulled Cranberry Apple Cider Recipe

The full printable recipe is below, but in a nutshell, you want to very gently simmer all of the ingredients together (except the optional honey and/or optional booze) either in a Crock Pot or on your stovetop. Then add honey (or other sweetener) at the end if you decide you want it sweeter, and spike each individual mug with booze if you so desire.

Whichever method you choose, do not boil! That cooks the solids in the cider and makes for a cloudy drink.

I hope you love this Mulled Cranberry Apple Cider. I truly think it’s the ultimate warm Christmas drink.

Cozy, warm, happy holidays to you!

More Mulled Drinks Perfect for the Holidays

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The Ultimate Warm Christmas Drink: Mulled Cranberry Apple Cider

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour 35 minutes
Author: Kare
Yield: 8
One of our favorite Christmas drinks! With cranberry juice, apple cider, a clove-studded orange, cinnamon, lemon peel, and rum if you like, this wassail warms you from your fuzzy Santa socks to your rosy nose.


  • 1 whole orange
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 4 cups cranberry juice (1 quart or approx. 1 liter)
  • 4 cups apple cider (1 quart or approx. 1 liter)
  • 3 lemon peels (from 1 medium lemon; just the peel and not the pith [which can cause bitterness])
  • 3 3-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons honey (optional to taste; can substitute Grade A pure maple syrup or granulated sugar)
  • spirits (if desired; sometimes I add 1/2 cup red wine for just a bit of extra oomph or a good splash of rum to the mug to spike it up a bit)

Optional garnishes

  • Orange slices
  • Fresh cranberries
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Sugared rosemary


Stud the orange with cloves

  • Use a toothpick to poke holes in the orange and then stuck the sharp end of the cloves into the orange. Set aside.

To make in a Crock Pot

  • Add cranberry juice, apple cider, lemon peel, cinnamon sticks, and the clove-studded orange to a 3-quart or larger Crock Pot. Cook on low for about three hours, until warmed through but never boiling. Switch the Crock Pot to the warm setting, and it's ready to serve when you're ready to drink!

To make on your stovetop

  • Set a heavy 3-quart or larger pot over the stove. Add cranberry juice, cider, lemon peel, cinnamon sticks, and the clove-studded orange. Turn the heat to medium and heat until just below a simmer. Don't let it boil or the cider will separate – it'll still taste good but will look cloudy. Turn the heat to low and cover. Lightly simmer for about 30 minutes.

Garnish and serve

  • Ladle the cider into mugs. Garnish if desired.


2021 recipe update: I’ve tweaked this recipe to include a clove-studded orange (now a staple in all of my mulled cider drinks!) and, instead of slices of citrus, we’ve got just the lemon peel. I have learned over time that citrus slices = a bitter wassail because of the pith in sliced citrus. I also find that the honey is a matter of taste; without the bitter note from the citrus slices, I find that it’s not needed. But if you like a sweeter cider, by all means stir some in!

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1cup, Calories: 133kcal, Carbohydrates: 35g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 1g, Sodium: 9mg, Potassium: 261mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 30g, Vitamin A: 101IU, Vitamin C: 25mg, Calcium: 45mg, Iron: 1mg

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