Who says mulled cider has to be hot? Here’s an icy, spicy-sweet version that makes a wonderful holiday pie topper or standalone amuse bouche!

Mulled Cider, Cold Is the New Hot!

About 3 1/4 cups (26 oz, 769 ml) sorbet base, and more volume once churned! 

Prep Talk
  • Be sure to read the instructions for your particular ice cream/sorbet maker before you start. I use a Cuisinart model with a bin that must be frozen until the cooling agent inside is completely solid, typically overnight. Don’t rush this step; if the bin isn’t completely solid, your sorbet will never freeze.
  • Also thoroughly chill the sorbet base before attempting to churn it. If the base is too warm to start, it can thaw your freezer bin, again preventing the freezing of the sorbet.
  • 4 cups (32.0 oz/946 ml) pure (unfermented, non-alcoholic) apple cider (do not use fermented cider or juice or cider with any additional sugar, as the added sugar and alcohol can inhibit freezing)
  • 45 whole cloves
  • 5 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 whole star anise pod (optional; for a slightly more exotic flair!)
  • Zest from 1/2 large (about 7 1/2-oz/213 g) orange, cut in long strips with a channel zester (not minced)
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 oz/98 g) plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, or to taste (within limits; see Step 1)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons (2.3 oz/68 ml) strained freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 | Prep the sorbet base. Combine the first five ingredients in a nonreactive (i.e., stainless steel or enamel-coated) saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the sugar and continue to boil until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and let cool to room temperature. (Note: This sorbet is a little on the tart side, which is my preference. If you want it sweeter, you can jockey with the sugar content to a certain extent; however, watch out: sugar elevates the freezing point, so if you add too much, the sorbet will never fully freeze in the next step.) Leave the solids in the base and chill thoroughly, ideally overnight to allow the spices to fully express themselves in the base.

2 | Freeze the sorbet base. Remove the spices and zest by straining the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and into a bowl (photos 2 and 3 in the gallery below). Discard the solids now that their flavor is spent. Pour the chilled base into the chamber of your ice cream/sorbet maker, and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The sorbet will increase in volume (and lighten in color) as it churns so be sure to leave a little spare room at the top. (To see the color and volume progression, check out photos 3 to 6 below.) With my Cuisinart, I typically churn no longer than 30 minutes, after which point the sorbet rarely gets any firmer because the freezer bin starts to warm up.

Immediately after churning, the sorbet may still be somewhat soft (depending on the sugar content in the apple cider) so I typically wrap the bin tightly with plastic wrap and/or foil and place it in the freezer for another 2 to 3 hours before serving (photos 1 and 7). However, I like to serve this sorbet the day it’s made for best texture.

3 | Serve it forth. Scoop the sorbet and serve it in mugs, straight up or garnished with whole spices, as I have here. Then, drink up!

Lastly, if you’re a visual learner, enjoy this video version of the recipe: