The host of the Halloween party we just attended requested that people bring ethanol-based drinks; we wanted there to be an alternate available, so we made some hot apple cider. Hot apple cider is exceptionally easy to make, and since it's the season for cider, I thought I'd make it this week's end-of-the-week recipe blogging post.
2 gallons unfiltered apple juice or cider
3 3-inch sticks cinnamon
1. Pour the apple juice or cider into a large pot. Add the cinnamon sticks.
2. Heat over medium heat until the cider is a good drinking temperature.
3. Serve hot; we left a ladle in the pot, and the pot on the stove over low heat, throughout the party. The cinnamon flavor becomes stronger the longer you heat the cider, so fish out the cinnamon sticks if it starts to get too strong.
Notes: This recipe (obviously) depends on the quality of the apple juice, so buy the most flavorful available. Apple juice made from freshly pressed apples is the ideal, and a treat - we had it once at Longwood Gardens years ago, and have been craving it ever since. Our current favorite commercial apple juice is Trader Joe's unfiltered apple juice (sold in one-gallon jugs); it's the closest we've found to fresh-pressed apple juice.
This recipe is far simpler than many apple cider recipes, which often include cloves, extra sugar, and other ingredients. We prefer the simplicity of just cinnamon with good apple juice, but flavor to your own tastes; probably the most traditional ingredient we've left out is cloves.
Our cinnamon is very fresh; if you just have a five-year-old jar of cinnamon sticks, you might want to add a few more. If you don't have whole cinnamon sticks, substitute ground cinnamon -- we'd suggest adding a bit at a time and tasting to check the flavor.
Also, remember that we made this for a large party, so feel free to scale down the recipe (though leftover cider tastes good chilled as well).