The Speckled Palate

September 26, 2014

Spiked Caramel Apple Cider

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Slightly sweet and crisp apple cider swirled with homemade salted caramel and bourbon is comforting, delicious and oh-so-seasonal! Spiked Caramel Apple Cider is the ultimate fall drink and can be made with or without the booze. First, whip up a batch of apple cider. Next, make a homemade salted caramel sauce. Finally, mix drinks to sip on a chilly autumn evening. What’s not to love about Spiked Caramel Apple Cider for the fall months?

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

I’m super excited to announce a new collaboration that’ll be appearing here at The Speckled Palate once a month: Comfort in 1!

Rachel from Feast and Farm and I thought it would be a blast for us to specify a seasonally appropriate ingredient every month, then make something cozy and comforting with it as the star. We plan to share our creations with our readers on the same day!

So we begin this fun feature, Comfort in 1, today!

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

September reminds us both of the fall, crisp weather and apples. So the ingredient was easily selected.

As I was brainstorming apple recipes, I initially thought I wanted to make a family classic 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. Except… I’m pregnant. So clearly, there would be no spiking of this cider for me.

That didn’t keep me from creating an alcoholic version of this drink for my husband, then foisting it upon him to be my taste-tester. (He leads a rough life, y’all. Haha.)

A glass of Spiked Apple Cider sits on a wooden serving tray

Do I have to spike this cider?

No! Absolutely not!

If you don’t drink, you can leave the bourbon out of the cider. This tastes delicious without the added alcohol.

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

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 totally get that. You can also purchase salted caramel sauce from the grocery, and if you’re more comfortable doing that, please do. (Goodness knows I’ve burned one too many pots of caramel in my time.)

A woman holds a warm glass of Spiked Caramel Apple Cider

What tools/products do I need to make this Spiked Caramel Apple Cider at home?

Caramel drips down the side of a glass of Spiked Caramel Apple Cider

What can I serve alongside this caramel apple cider?

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:

Spiked Caramel Apple Cider
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, swirled with homemade salted caramel, and if you so choose, your favorite bourbon. Spiked Caramel Apple Cider is a delightful fall treat!


Apple Cider

  • 64 oz. apple juice (100% apple juice with no sugar added)
  • 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


Make the Apple Cider

  1. Pour the entire bottle of apple juice 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:


8 cups

Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 312 Total Fat: 11g Saturated Fat: 7g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 3g Cholesterol: 28mg Sodium: 291mg Carbohydrates: 55g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 49g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 1g
Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

What kind of drinks are you drawn to during the fall and winter months?


  1. Kelly @ Hidden Fruits and Veggies

    I dream about caramel apple cider basically all year round! Hot, cold, every which way — especially if you’re salting the caramel, mmm. I normally mix cider with rum, but bourbon would make me feel so much fancier 😀

    • Erin

      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!

  2. Erini

    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!

    • Erin

      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!

  3. Eileen

    Hot apple cider is one of the best drinks ever, spiked or not. 🙂 So delicious and soporific!

    • Erin

      Amen, girl! It’s SO good!

  4. Nancy

    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 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

    • Erin

      Thanks, Nancy! I’d be interested to hear what you think of this cider if you DO make it since apple cider really isn’t your thing…

  5. Julie @ A Warrior and A Nurse

    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!

    • Erin

      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. 😉

  6. Julie S.

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

    • Erin

      Homemade is SO good, Julie! What do you not like about store-bought cider? Maybe this recipe would be right for you to try?

  7. Melissa Belanger

    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 🙂 Happy Fall!

    • Erin

      I think you totally need to make some caramel sauce this year, Melissa! It’s basically a fall staple, right? Happy Fall right back at ya!

  8. Phi @ The Sweetphi Blog

    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!

    • Erin

      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. 🙂 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!

  9. Elizabeth

    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. 🙂 Found you through Madison’s blog!

    • Erin

      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!

  10. Megan

    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!

    • Erin

      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. 😉

  11. Maria

    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.

    • Erin

      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!

  12. Cheryl

    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!

    • Erin

      You’re a good friend, Cheryl! Thanks for taking one for the team on this. 😉

      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!

  13. Des @ Life's Ambrosia

    This looks perfect for fall! Love it!

    • Erin

      It really is! Cheers!

  14. Heather | All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

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

    • Erin

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

  15. Patricia @ Grab a Plate

    So yummy! I can image how good it would be hot or cold! Mmm!

    • Erin

      Seriously. It is delightful either way!

  16. Sabrina

    My family is a big fan of warm cider on a cold winter night! We’ll have to try this recipe!

    • Erin

      My family is, too! I hope yours enjoys this recipe as much as mine does. 🙂

  17. Dee

    This is perfect for those cool fall and winter nights!

    • Erin

      Agreed! Nothing like some spiked cider to warm you right up.

  18. carrie @ frugal foodie mama

    Oh yum! I am going to have to make this soon. What a perfect fall cocktail! 🙂

    • Erin

      Please do! I hope you enjoy it because it totally is perfect for this fall weather we’re currently experiencing. 😀

  19. Michelle | A Latte Food

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

  20. Steph

    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.

    • Erin

      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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