Warm your belly this Halloween with The Ripper. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

Wishing all a Happy Scary Halloween, America’s great pagan holiday. Friday is reserved for another post, so this will stand in for The Friday Cocktail Hour. And in the wake of Sandy, many Halloween celebrations are rightly delayed till Sunday, as they are here in Cleveland Heights. Donna loves spiced cider, and since it’s so miserable and cold, she asked if I could make a hot cider drink for her to photograph. Perfect idea to keep the chill out of the body as the tots and teens come ringing with open bags, or simply to warm the soul after this awful week for the American East Coast all the way into the Midwest.

This is a simple one, cider reduced by 1/4 with cinnamon and cardamom (I like cloves, but Donna doesn’t), dark rum, bitters, a squeeze of lemon to balance the sweetness, and a twist of orange (give the glass an extra squeeze of orange oils from the zest).

I favor a 2:1 ratio of cider to rum, but strength is up to you. Donna told me this was the best cider drink she’d ever had (I repeat, most unhumbly). This is delicious without the rum but very sweet due to the reduction, so be sure to add the lemon juice if serving to kids or if you want it nonalcoholic.

Good article here from the NYT on what the dead have to teach us. My dead dad had a lot to teach me when he was alive and he still keeps teaching me. Whether celebrating or not, it is still officially Halloween, and I will raise my hot cider tonight to my dad Rip, whose favorite holiday was this very one.

The Ripper

(Spiced Cider with Bitters and Dark Rum)

  • 4 cups cider
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 5 cloves (Donna, not a clove fan, insists this be optional.)
  • 10–15 green cardamom pods (or white if you can’t find green)
  • 1.5 cups dark rum
  • Bitters to taste (I used “Krangostura” from Bitters Old Men, which is cinnamony. Look for a citrusy or spicy bitters.)
  • A squeeze of lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon or so per drink
  • Orange zest for garnish
  1. Combine cider, cinnamon, cloves (if using), and cardamom over medium high heat. Simmer till it’s reduced by 1/4. Turn to low and let the spices steep at least an hour.
  2. To serve, return the cider to a simmer (if it’s reduced beyond 3 cups, add more cider so that you have that much) and heat your mugs in a microwave. Add 2 ounces of dark rum to each mug, several shakes of bitters, a squeeze of lemon, and 4 ounces of the spiced cider. If you want it piping hot, nuke the drinks till they’re as hot as you wish.
  3. Garnish with orange zest (get plenty of orange oils in there).

Serves 6

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© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.