Hard Cider Is A Holiday Party Must

It’s a crowd pleaser.

Originally Published: 
Apple pie cocktail drink with vodka, apple liqueur and cinnamon syrup.. Light beige background, hard...

There’s no denying that 2023 gave everyone plenty of reasons to drink. But now that the year is (mostly) behind us, it’s time to celebrate making it through good times and bad. And while Champagne is the bubbly beverage synonymous with end-of-the-year festivities, another seasonal alcohol is coming for its crown. A category all its own, boozy hard cider began mulling up buzz as the holidays’ cool kid as soon as the weather turned crisp. According to Liz Paquette, head of consumer insights at Drizly. shares that in October of this year, hard cider spiked to 4% share of the beer category — up from 3.3% in Sept and 2.9% in August.

So, what exactly is this sometimes sparkling, sometimes still, drink? Hard cider is a fermented beverage made from apples or sometimes other fruits, like pears. While it’s not wine, Chelsea Cox, VP of marketing and product development at Blake’s Hard Cider Co., explains its closest to the grape-based beverage, especially in terms of production. “The sugar from the fruit is used to feed the yeast, which converts it to alcohol,” she says. “The apples are picked, and pressed, resulting in a beautiful cider base to work with.”

Though it’s usually packaged and sold in cans or glass bottles, that’s where the similarities with beer end. “It is not brewed, there is no ‘cooking’ of the cider... There are no hops in the cider-making process either, and this makes the profile very different from beer.”

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Zach Mack, certified Ciceorne, and owner of Alphabet City Beer Co. in Manhattan sings the praise of cider, partially due to its diversity. “There are quite literally thousands of apple varieties used for making cider,” he notes. “It runs the gamut from the bright, zippy, barnyard-y flavors of Asturian style cider from the Basque region of Spain and France to the dry-yet-complex flavors of French cider, to the fruit-forward profile of British and Irish style ciders.”

The number of options also makes it easy to find the perfect cider pairing, whether you’re drinking it straight or in a cocktail at a holiday gathering or decadent feast. “Hard cider complements rich and hearty foods with its clean and crisp profile,” Cox shares. She continues, saying it “pairs well with turkey and all the fixings that go along with it,” and that her family likes to use it to make their version of mimosa for breakfast while they cook their holiday meal.

For those looking to use hard cider to elevate their mixology game, Mack encourages people to use “traditional” ingredients you’d find on a bar cart to complement the concoction. “Clove or freshly grated nutmeg,” he says, “breeds into the idea of baking spice without being over the top or too Yankee candle company.”

To create an out-of-the-box holiday refreshment, he tosses out the idea of mixing hard cider with a bright ingredient. “An elderflower liqueur… something like that, outside of the cocktail base ingredients, you can get kind of funky with it,” he says.


Hard Cider Rules of Thumb

Creating a cocktail with a new-to-you ingredient can be intimidating, and doing it for guests during the holidays can be downright daunting. Luckily, both experts have tips to make creating hard cider cocktails seamless.

To start, Mack recommends not going in blind, with your eyes or mouth. “I would say try the cider ahead of time before you start experimenting,” he advises. “If it's more fruit-forward and sweeter, know that it'll be good.” He adds that cider is a versatile mixer but to get the best result with your cocktails stay away from “added sugar or corn syrups or anything like that,” he says. “If it's mass-produced, then you have to be wary of the fact that they are going to taste a lot more saccharin sweet. And that's not usually ideal for cocktails.”

Cox also encourages people to go local whenever possible. “Try to support regional cideries that are made in your home state, you’re likely supporting a family-owned business or farmers. These smaller brands often use freshly pressed apples instead of concentrates,” she points out. “Freshly pressed apples often mean less sugar too, so there are benefits to real fruit.”

In terms of liquor, there are no hard and fast rules with what mixes best with hard cider. Mack is open to all pairings with traditional core spirit bases. He’s not a fan of mixing cider with “anything too herbaceous,” as there may be vegetal notes that “clash.”

Cox is partial to mixing in whiskey as the two alcohols “go hand-in-hand and you don’t need to add anything else. But if you want to, [go for a] cinnamon stick or a caramel liqueur,” she says.

Finally, while the bubbles in some hard ciders are a feature, not a bug, it’s still important to proceed with caution when working with carbonation. “If it's an effervescent cider… you obviously can't shake that,” Mack insists. Instead, he recommends using it as a topper or pouring it in after the other ingredients to prevent it from exploding or running the carbonation out of it. Even if the cider you’re using doesn’t appear very bubbly, Mack still suggests this course of action.

“They could be a technically shaken ingredient, but it's also important to remember that even the ones that seem like they're low in carbonation can get really, really fizzy if you shake them up. So that's very important to keep in mind,” he reiterates.

Ahead, hard cider cocktail recipes that bring warmth and holiday cheer to everyone, regardless if they’ve been naughty or nice.

Cider Mill Mule

Blake's Hard Cider

Moscow is so yesterday. This cider brings the classic mule cocktail into the now with seasonal vibes in one sip. The aroma of cinnamon blends in with the Mule de Pomme, cutting out the majority of the mixology work and giving you more time to enjoy this twist on a classic refreshment.


  • 1 oz bourbon or whiskey
  • 5 oz Blake’s Mule De Pomme
  • 2 oz Blake’s Sweet Cider
  • 2 dashes of ground cinnamon
  • Garnish cinnamon stick and apple slice


Add ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a glass (preferably a copper mug) over ice, and garnish.

Caramel Candy Apple Martini

Courtesy of Vido Vodka

Get ready for a heaping dose of childhood nostalgia when your favorite cold weather treat of yore gets an adult makeover. Warning: You might go bobbing for a second or third round.


  • 2 oz VIDO Premium Vodka
  • ½ oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 oz caramel simple syrup*
  • 1 oz apple liqueur (Berentzen)
  • 4 oz apple cider
  • Ice
  • Apple slice (candied or not) for garnish


Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake well. Serve straight up in a martini glass or on the rocks.

Caramel Simple Syrup


  • ⅓ cup caramel melts
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • ½ vanilla bean (split open)
  • ⅓ cup salted caramel syrup


In a small pot or saucepan add all ingredients. Cook on medium heat for 7 to 10 minutes. Stirring periodically. Strain and set aside to cool.

Cider Sangria

Courtesy of Stella Rosa

Apple cider is the star of this crowd-pleasing sangria creation. The autumnal fruit adds a fresh element that also serves as a garnish that makes it, dare we say, healthy...ish.

Ingredients (makes one pitcher)

  • 1 bottle of Stella Rosa® Platinum French Vanilla, chilled
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup club soda
  • ½ cup ginger brandy
  • 1 red apple, sliced
  • 1 green apple, sliced
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 2 oranges, sliced
  • Ice


Add all ingredients into a pitcher filled with ice and gently stir.

Garden of Eden

Courtesy of Redemption

Welcome to cider paradise. This delicious potion uses bourbon and apple cider to transport your tastebuds to a wondrous winter garden. The sparkling concotion adds a touch of whimsy to the well-balanced beverage.


  • 2 oz Redemption Bourbon
  • ½ oz lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon Allspice Dram
  • 3 oz sparkling apple cider
  • Garnish: apple fan and rosemary sprig


Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain over ice in a highball glass. Top with apple cider and soda.

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