Slow Cooker Spiced Cranberry Apple Cider

$11.49 recipe / $0.96 per cup
by Beth - Budget Bytes
5 from 5 votes
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It’s party season! Between Thanksgiving and the New Year I feel like every weekend is booked up with parties, parties, PARTIES. So, I’d love to give you at least one idea for easy party eats or drinks. Well, okay, drinks. And guess what? Even if you don’t have a party to host, this Slow Cooker Spiced Cranberry Apple Cider makes a wonderful warm beverage for those cold winter evenings. When I was testing this recipe I made a whole batch and kept it in a pitcher in my fridge for the rest of the week. I reheated a mug in the microwave every night for an extra special treat!

Slow Cooker Spiced Cranberry Apple Cider

Three mugs of Slow Cooker Spiced Cranberry Apple Cider with fresh orange slices floating on top, and cranberries, cinnamon, and cloves sprinkled around

Why Use a Slow Cooker?

The reason this slow cooker brew is so great for parties is that it’s one of those “set it and forget it” party treats, and it provides options for alcohol drinkers and non-drinkers alike. Simply stash a bottle of spiced rum, or maybe even an apple or cinnamon flavored liquor near the slow cooker for guests to spike their drinks if needed. “Needed” LOL.

Optional Garnishes for Slow Cooker Spiced Cranberry Apple Cider

Fresh orange and cranberry garnishes are totally optional, but they do make the drink exceptionally festive. If you happen to have a rosemary plant you can cut a few sprigs for pine-like garnishes as well.

Recipe adapted from TheKitchn.com.

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Slow Cooker Spiced Cranberry Apple Cider

5 from 5 votes
Slow Cooker Spiced Cranberry Apple Cider is an easy and festive drink for all your holiday party guests (drinkers AND non-drinkers).
Author: Adapted from TheKitchn.com
Servings 12 cups
Prep 10 mins
Cook 3 hrs
Total 3 hrs 10 mins

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts unfiltered apple juice or cider ($4.99)
  • 1 quart cranberry juice cocktail (100% juice) ($2.99)
  • 1 small orange ($0.33)
  • 3- inches fresh ginger ( $0.30)
  • 1 Tbsp cloves ($0.60)
  • 1.25 oz bottle cinnamon sticks (5-6 small sticks) ($1.25)

GARNISHES (optional)

  • 1 small orange ($0.33)
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries ($0.70)

Instructions 

  • Combine the apple juice and cranberry juice cocktail in a 4-6 quart slow cooker.
  • Slice the orange. Peel and slice the ginger into rounds. Place the cloves in a tea baller or tea strainer*. Add the orange slices, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon sticks to the slow cooker with the juice mix.
  • Place a lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for six hours, or high for three (you can start this mid-day before your party). Once the party has begun, turn the heat to warm to keep the brew nice and hot without over cooking.
  • Serve each much with a half slice of orange and a few fresh cranberries, if desired.

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Notes

*If you don't have a tea baller or strainer, you can let the cloves free float in the cider. They will eventually sink to the bottom where they are not likely to be picked up in the ladle while serving.

Nutrition

Serving: 1ServingCalories: 130.82kcalCarbohydrates: 32.91gProtein: 0.43gFat: 0.17gSodium: 30.73mgFiber: 6.72g
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Check out our Holiday Recipe Archives for more festive dishes!

Close up of a mug full of Slow Cooker Spiced Cranberry Apple Cider with cranberries and an orange slice floating on top

Three mugs of Slow Cooker Spiced Cranberry Apple Cider with garnishes, viewed from above

Step by Step Photos

Cranberry and apple juice bottles

Start with a 1/2 gallon jug of unfiltered apple juice or cider and a 1 quart bottle of cranberry juice cocktail. The reason I use a cranberry “cocktail” instead of straight juice is because straight cranberry juice is quite tart. So, I used a cocktail to give that hint of cranberry while keeping the drink nice and sweet.

Juice Ingredients on label

I did splurge and get good quality juices, though. I made sure my cranberry juice cocktail was 100% juice and opted for an apple juice mix, instead of a grape juice mix. 

Add Juice to Slow Cooker

Pour the juices into a 4-6 quart slow cooker.

Spiced Cider Seasonings

Also slice one orange, peel and slice about 3 inches of fresh ginger, and place about 1 Tbsp cloves into a tea baller or strainer. I also used about 5 small cinnamon sticks. I found this small bottle of cinnamon sticks in the Hispanic foods aisle in my grocery store. They were quite fragrant, but a fraction of the cost of cinnamon sticks from the spice aisle. So, be sure to check your international foods aisle!

Add Spices to Slow Cooker

Add the orange slices, ginger slices, cloves, and cinnamon sticks to the slow cooker with the juices. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for about 6 hours, or high for 3 hours. 

Finished Slow Cooked Spiced Cider

After that time the oranges will be a little softer and most everything else will probably have sunk to the bottom. If you used a tea baller, you can remove that before serving. You could also use a slotted spoon to remove the ginger, cinnamon, or oranges, but I think it looks nice to leave it in. 

Close up of one mug full of Slow Cooker Spiced Cranberry Apple Cider with an orange slice and cinnamon stick

If serving the drink for a party, make sure to turn the heat to the “warm” setting to keep the brew hot while preventing it from over cooking. Place a plate of sliced orange halves and a bowl of fresh cranberries near the slow cooker for garnish. Spiced rum would go lovely with this drink, as would an apple or cinnamon flavored liquor. Actually, even whiskey would be kind of good! Almost like a hot toddy, but not. Ha. However you decide to drink this Slow Cooker Spiced Cranberry Apple Cider, it’s goooooood.

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  1. This is probably a dumb question but if we double this, would you also double the cloves and cinnamon sticks?

  2. Made a half batch for our Covid Thanksgiving (just my SO and I), and it was delicious! I’m pregnant and was missing my usual mulled wine, but this tasted surprisingly similar despite having no alcohol. I think it’s b/c similar spices are used, and the fresh ginger gives a bit of that “heat” in the back of the throat. Definitely recommend!

  3. This turned out awesome! Made a bath for my Christmas eve party and boy was it a hit. I couldn’t believe the whole thing was consumed! And I say that because we live in Florida and it was about 83 for christmas. So I didn’t think people would be craving a hot beverage but I decided it was festive and went for it. I also turned the AC down to about 69. Haha. Everyone loved that the cranberries and orange slices made a Smiley face in their cup, that was different everytime. Thanks for another successful recipe, beth!

  4. I made a half recipe to try before Christmas. I used locally pressed cider with no preservatives and used only one cinnamon stick and six cloves for this recipe (stuck them in the orange slices). Knowing my family’s tastes, I also cut the ginger a bit. This brew was great, don’t need sweeteners and with my reductions in the spices the wonderful local cider taste came through.

  5. I want to make this for a party and I’m wondering how I’d properly refill it so we don’t run out, since it needs to hang out in the crockpot for a few hours. Any thoughts/advice?

    1. Make two batches and keep the second warm on a slow burner, in a slow oven, another slow cooker, or a big percolater..

  6. I love the idea of making this ahead of time and then reheating it throughout the week as a treat! Looks delicious, and I bet it would go well with a shot of bourbon too!

  7. Really good! We have made thia twice. On the second batch, we peeled the orange as the pith gave the first batch a bitter after taste.

  8. Love the simplicity of this! I’ll have to try it for an upcoming party- thanks!! :)

    1. Hmm, I’ve never tried to infuse a liquid with spices using a pressure cooker. I really have no idea what that would do to it.

  9. I saw the Badia logo for the picture about the cinnamon sticks. I love Badia spices! I get them from the international aisle at my grocery store. They also have large jars or small packets of spices available, in addition to the standard sized jars, depending on your needs. I love their chili powder.

    Thanks for sharing this festive recipe! I might give it a try the next time I host something this winter. Normally we only have water, coffee, and tea to offer our guests so this will be a nice special drink.

  10. Regarding your whiskey comment — bourbon in particular is AMAZING for spiking mulled cider. Haven’t tried it with a cranberry apple combo before, but I have with regular spiced cider. Hands down favorite hot alcoholic drink for the fall.