Spiked Caramel Apple Cider

Slightly sweet and crisp apple cider swirls with homemade salted caramel and bourbon to become a comforting, delicious and fall cocktail! This Spiked Caramel Apple Cider is the ultimate autumnal drink. You can make yours with or without spirits, too!

Two glasses of Spiked Apple Cider are served on a wooden serving tray

September always reminds me of the fall, crisp weather and apples.

Which means this month, I’m all about apple recipes. (Looking at you, Apple Cider Moscow Mule, Cinnamon Apple Pork Chops, Vegan Apple Crisp and more.)

Which leads me to this Spiked Cider recipe.

Why I love this recipe:

As I was brainstorming apple recipes, I initially wanted to make a family classic (ahem, Apple Crumble) until I got a craving for apple cider.

Cider is one of my favorite drinks to sip during the fall months because it’s an autumnal comfort food of mine.

However, I wanted to make Spiked Apple Cider, one of my all-time favorite treats that was a revelation when I realized I liked bourbon.

This recipe has been a mainstay in our lives since the early 2010’s, and it’s I loved to make for Halloween. You know, to sip while I hand out candy.

This Spiked Apple Cider was actually developed when I was pregnant in 2014, so I made sure that it would taste excellent without bourbon.

Of course, my husband did the very important taste testing to make sure the spiked rendition was delightful. (It is!)

Other apple drinks for the fall: Apple Cider Moscow Mule | Apple Cider Punch with Sambucus | Apple Cider Margaritas | Gin Apple Pie Cocktail | Spiced Apple Cider

Looking for a dish to make and share this fall? Check out my Fall Recipe Index for more ideas.

Overhead image of two glasses of Spiked Apple Cider sit on a wooden serving tray

What do I need to make this recipe?

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Let’s talk ingredients!

In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.

Here’s what you need:

  • Apple cider—we’re going to make our own spiced cider, so you need apple cider that hasn’t been spiced already. If you can find fresh apple cider, use that here!
  • Spices—we’re going to both cinnamon sticks and whole cloves to add flavor and warming spices to the cider
  • Granulated sugar—also known as white sugar, this is going to create our salted caramel sauce. Alternately, you could purchase a salted caramel sauce to use in this recipe.
  • Salted butter—another integral ingredient in our caramel, there is no replacing this. If you use an unsalted butter, add a little more salt to the final caramel.
  • Half-and-half—this adds extra creaminess to the caramel sauce, and I chose this because it’s got more fat content than regular milk.
  • High-quality sea salt—this is going to add the finishing saltiness to the caramel, and the quality matters!
  • Bourbon—if you’re spiking your cider, this is our beverage of choice! Use one that’s great for drinking. Do not use a fancier sipping bourbon, though.
A glass of Spiked Apple Cider sits on a wooden serving tray

How to make Spiked Caramel Apple Cider

Make the Spiced Apple Cider

Pour the entire bottle of cider into a large pot (or a Dutch oven.) Add the cinnamon sticks and cloves.

Turn the heat onto high, and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Make the Salted Caramel

Add the sugar to a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. With a rubber spatula, stir the sugar as it heats and melts. It will go from white to light brown to a caramel color.

Pro tip!

Be very careful and don’t walk away from the stovetop during this step. The sugar can burn easily!

When the sugar begins to caramelize, lower the heat.

Add the butter, stirring as the caramel bubbles for 2-3 minutes.

Slowly drizzle in the half-and-half, whisking vigorously. The caramel will bubble and splatter during this step, too.

Remove the saucepan from the heat. Measure in the salt, and whisk vigorously until incorporated.

Let the caramel cool before using it. Transfer to a jar and keep in the fridge for up to a few weeks.

Make the Drinks

You can make this in a blender or a cocktail shaker. However, if you use a cocktail shaker that is made of metal, your hands might get toasty.

Add the ingredients to the blender or shaker. Pour in the hot apple cider and salted caramel. Blend until incorporated.

Once combined, add the bourbon, and stir with a spoon. You may also leave out the bourbon if you’d like classic Caramel Apple Cider.

Garnish the cocktail glasses. I dipped mine in the warm caramel to where they would have a caramel rim. You could add a sprinkle of cinnamon on top if you felt wild. You can also skip the garnish all together.

Pour the drink into an a heat-proof mug or a glass, and enjoy immediately.

Two glasses of Spiked Apple Cider sit on a wooden serving tray

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to spike this cider?

You do not have to do that! You can make regular Caramel Apple Cider (like the kind you might have at Starbucks or your favorite coffee shop.) To do this, simply leave the bourbon out of the cider. This tastes delicious without the added alcohol.

Do I have to make the cider and caramel from scratch?

If you don’t have time to make your own cider, feel free to purchase a jug of your favorite cider from the grocery.

If you’re feeling hesitant about the caramel, I get that. You can also purchase salted caramel sauce from the grocery, and if you’re more comfortable doing that, please do.

What’s the difference between apple juice and apple cider?

It’s in the way they’re finished. Apple cider is unfiltered, which means the apple pulp and other debris are not filtered before the cider is bottled. Apple juice is filtered, which gives it a clearer consistency and makes it a little smoother and sweeter to drink.

A woman holds a warm glass of Spiked Caramel Apple Cider

Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips

Oh, this Salted Caramel Apple Cider recipe would be an excellent choice for entertaining in the fall, whether you’re hosting friends for an at-home tailgate or a Halloween party.

I mean… who doesn’t love cider with caramel?

Here are some tips for serving this favorite fall drink at a gathering:

  • Double or triple the recipe. This is a well-loved recipe for a reason, and it’s hard to stop drinking once you start!
  • Make the salted caramel in advance. This could be done up to a week in advance. Let it cool, then let transfer it to a mason jar, and keep it in the fridge.
  • Make a kid-friendly batch. As I’ve said above, this drink is excellent without the bourbon, too! If you’re going to serve both adults and kids, I suggest having the kid-friendly batch to be out in the open while mixing the adult drinks individually so that there is no confusion.
  • Keep the cider warm in a slow cooker or crock pot!
Caramel drips down the side of a glass of Spiked Caramel Apple Cider

Quick tips and tricks for the best Caramel Apple Cider

What can I serve alongside this recipe?

Depending on what you’re making this cider recipe for, there are a lot of options!

Since I love to enjoy this at Halloween, here are some ideas for you:

Pinterest graphic of Spiked Caramel Apple Cider, showing two glasses of the hot drink and Pinterest text

Interested in making this cocktail (or making it a mocktail)?

Here’s how you can do it:

Two glasses of Spiked Caramel Apple Cider are served on a wooden platter, rimmed with caramel and garnished with a cinnamon stick
Yield: 8 servings

Spiked Caramel Apple Cider

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Slightly sweet and crisp apple cider swirls with homemade salted caramel and bourbon to become a comforting, delicious and fall cocktail! This Spiked Caramel Apple Cider is the ultimate autumnal drink. You can make yours with or without spirits, too!

Ingredients

Apple Cider

  • 64 oz. apple cider
  • 3 large cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves

Salted Caramel

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter, , cut into 1/2" pieces
  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • ¾ teaspoon high-quality sea salt

For an individual-sized Non-Alcoholic Caramel Apple Cider

  • 8 oz. homemade apple cider
  • 4 teaspoons salted caramel

For an individual-sized Spiked Caramel Apple Cider

  • 6 oz. homemade apple cider
  • 4 teaspoons salted caramel
  • 2 oz. bourbon

Instructions

Make the Spiced Apple Cider

  1. Pour the entire bottle of apple cider into a large pot, then add the cinnamon sticks and cloves. Turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil.
  2. When the cider is boiling, lower the heat to the lowest possible setting. Cover, and allow at least 30 minutes to simmer.

Make the Salted Caramel

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, add the sugar. With a rubber spatula, constantly stir the sugar as it heats and melts, eventually turning a caramel color. (Be VERY careful in this step because the sugar is so easy to burn!)
  2. When the sugar starts browning, lower the heat. Add the butter, stirring as the caramel bubbles for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Slowly drizzle in the half-and-half to the caramel, whisking vigorously. The caramel will bubble and splatter at this step, too.
  4. When the half-and-half is incorporated into the caramel, remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the sea salt, and whisk until incorporated.
  5. Allow the caramel time to cool.

Make the Drinks

  1. The Caramel Apple Cider can be made with a blender or in a cocktail shaker. Be forewarned if you're making this a warm drink, using a metal cocktail shaker will be a challenge, and the entire shaker will absorb the heat of the drink and make shaking and pouring a challenge.
  2. Pour the homemade apple cider into the blender/shaker. Measure in the salted caramel. Blend/shake until the caramel is incorporated into the cider. Once combined, add the bourbon, if you so choose, and stir with a spoon to mix.
  3. Pour the prepared drink into an appropriate vessel (a heat-proof mug or a cocktail glass if you're drinking this chilled), and enjoy immediately.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 375Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 28mgSodium: 328mgCarbohydrates: 67gFiber: 1gSugar: 61gProtein: 1g

Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

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39 Comments

    1. Goodness, YES. I’m a fan of apple cider for any time during the year, though this time, when it’s just beginning to hint at fall and coolness, is the time I want it the most. I’ve never had cider with rum before, but I’m sure it’s equally as delicious as the bourbon-spiked cider!

  1. I LOVE cider! In practically all forms! I’m hoping to get a chance to go to the orchard with my dad and sisters, so I might have to make this for myself once I get home!

    1. Hooray for cider in any and ALL forms! I love that you can go to an orchard this time of year — there are none around us — and if you do go with your dad and sisters, you’ve gotta make some delicious apple things and tell me ALL about them!

  2. Wow this looks good!! Plus your photos are so amazing that even though I don’t like apple cider, I am going to try to make this πŸ™‚ Thank you for sharing!

  3. Pregnancy is a blessing and a curse. When I was. pregnant with our son, of course, everyday I looked forward to meeting him. He has brought so much happiness into our lives. Never a hard core drinker myself, I admit, the forced sobriety was a little challenging at times especially when around friends. Until the next bun is in the oven, I can’t wait to try this one with my husband!

    1. You’re right about pregnancy making life a little challenging at times, though I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I cannot wait to meet Lady Baby S and hold her in my arms. That being said… I have a list of foods that I want to eat once our baby arrives and am keeping a running list, of which my husband rolls his eyes whenever I mention it because I may or may not mention it a lot when we’re eating. πŸ˜‰

  4. I haven’t been a fan of store bought cider, but I’ve never tried home made. That looks yummy πŸ™‚ This is a really neat feature idea, too πŸ™‚

  5. Yum! I didn’t think I would make any caramel sauce this year, but I think you have changed my mind! This cider looks amazing πŸ™‚ Happy Fall!

  6. Oh man, my hubby would LOVE this (I would too, but he is a huge bourbon fan!) It looks super delish and beautiful too! I’d love to participate in this ingredient challenge, I have an apple recipe that I’m posting Friday…is that too late to be part of this months’?
    This is my first time on your blog btw, I love it!

    1. High-five for your hubby being a bourbon fan! And if you’re not one, I’m sure you could swap out some rum or another alcohol… or simply leave it be. Mine was delightful without the added alcohol.

      We’d love for you to participate in the ingredient challenge, and Friday is absolutely not too late! When you post it, let me know. πŸ™‚ And for future reference, we’re using pumpkin for our #comfortin1 ingredient on October 17th if you’d like to join in on that one, too!

      Thanks for stopping by! So happy you enjoyed my blog!

  7. Oh this looks so delicious–I’m definitely going to try both versions of this!! And I would love to participate in next month’s challenge. πŸ™‚ Found you through Madison’s blog!

    1. I cannot wait to hear what you think about both versions, Elizabeth! Please let me know what you think!

      We’d love for you to participate in next month’s! We’re cooking with pumpkin, and our posts will be going live Friday, October 17th. So happy you stopped by!

  8. This sounds soooo good! Cider is one of my fall favorites! I know you can’t have it right now, but have you ever tried Knob Creek’s maple flavored bourbon? Oh man, it is out of this world! I never really missed alcohol much when I was pregnant. Coffee was a terrible thing to give up\cut back though. Good thing all this caramel apple goodness probably tastes amazing all by itself!

    1. Cider is one of my fall favorites, too, Megan! And I’ve never tried Knob Creek’s maple-flavored bourbon, though I can imagine it’s pretty delightful, and I’ll absolutely have to get my hands on it for a post-pregnancy tasting. I don’t really miss alcohol, per se, though I absolutely love some bourbon in my cider. However, this cider is good enough to stand alone without the bourbon, so it’s not really a big problem. πŸ˜‰

  9. As you know, anything with a alcohol content attracts my attention. The thought of making my own spiked apple cider totally appealed to me, until I read the instructions. The very words ‘be very careful at this stage’ scared me and my limited cooking skills, so I gave serious debate over trying to recreate this. Then I heard a like voice saying “cheat a little and buy the caramel” *wink* and so I did just that.
    My spiked caramel apple cider looks absolutely nothing like yours BUT it tastes fantastic so I’m taking that as a win for me.
    Thanks for sharing this, and other recipes, and for giving a true amateur a chance, and encouragement, to expand her cooking and baking skills.

    1. Aww, well, I’m glad this worked out for you, girl! There’s no shame in purchasing your caramel if you don’t want to risk messing up the homemade stuff on your stovetop because I can attest that it stinks when it burns!

      I’m so happy that this blog is helping you expand your cooking and baking skills! Keep it up, girl!

  10. Mmmm! I’ll have two spiked, please, to make up for the one you can’t have! Apple + salted caramel is basically the greatest thing ever, and I’m a sucker for the rendition at Starbucks. Can’t wait to make this at home to satisfy the craving!

    1. You’re a good friend, Cheryl! Thanks for taking one for the team on this. πŸ˜‰

      Apple and salted caramel is such a fabulous combination, and like you, I love the Starbucks rendition. Excited to hear what you think of this homemade version of it — I hope it stacks up!

  11. Wowza, that cider looks ridiculously good – spiked or not, I’d love a glass!

    1. Thanks so much! It’s quite delicious either way. πŸ™‚ I actually made this when I was pregnant, so no spiking of the cider for me, haha.

  12. This looks so rich and perfect! Cider is definitely one of my favorite drinks during this season and this looks amazing!

  13. Just made this and despite realizing half way through I did the caramel wrong lol it still turned out yummy and I imagine it will be even better when I follow the directions thank you for sharing.

    1. Not gonna lie, Steph: Your comment made me chuckle when I first read it.

      That said, I’m so happy to hear that it was delicious, even though you made the caramel wrong. I hope you have a chance to make it again and again because we love this stuff at our house!

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and let me know how it is! Did you try the boozy version or the non-alcoholic one?

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