Thanksgiving is a long day of friends, family and football. It’s also very, very cold in much of the country right now, so you are going to need a warm drink you can slowly sip as you wait for your Cousin Doug to get the turkey fryer going outside or so help you, you’re tailgating in Detroit, Dallas or Baltimore tomorrow.
Green Bay-Detroit? You’re going to need at least one or two pre-dinner drinks. Raiders-Cowboys? Nap and/or food eating. Steelers-Ravens? Nightcaps or perhaps still having dessert if you are on the West Coast. So you can either get this cider going first thing in the morning or while you’re doing the dishes before the evening game.
If you are tailgating, this cider keeps well in thermos or can be heated over the grill, just add the scotch on site. Or, if you’re like me at a cold tailgate, keep the seat heater on as long as possible and every once in awhile get back in the car and ask yourself why you picked going to the game over your sofa in the first place. Nothing to do with football, I love watching football in person. I’m just old and my tolerance for peec-icle Port-O-Potties disappeared years ago. Anyway, seat heaters are good for keeping your cider warm in addition to your tuchas.
In addition to the physical heat radiating off your cider, this drink has warmth from both the scotch and the spices. Peppercorns help pick up the scotch and a add nice spark. Raw sugar is just a little more earthy than white sugar thanks to the molasses, which in turn echoes the peat in the alcohol. In this drink I prefer using a clementine instead of an orange as its smaller size helps you tame the citrus notes of a typical cider. It’s not as sharp, nor does it have so much juice as to overwhelm the apple notes or the scotch.
Use a good, drinkable smoky blended scotch instead of your best Ardbeg, one that you enjoy drinking but not one so precious you’re going to get pelted with whisky stones for using in a cocktail. If anyone does give you a hard time about spices, especially pepper, in scotch drink, tell them to read up on the Scottish wedding tradition of bride’s cog. At least you’re not putting egg in it.
You will need:
64 ounces unfiltered apple juice
1/4 cup raw sugar (You can substitute white sugar and a touch of molasses, about a 1/2 tablespoon.)
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns (Depending on how fresh they are, you may want to use fewer peppercorns.)
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
10 ounces of a smoky blended scotch, like Black Grouse (A decently priced, very everyday drinkable scotch.)
Orange peel for garnish
Stick the cloves into the clementine so it is studded all over like Pinhead. This helps the juice of the fruit to gentle seep into the cider as it heats up. By the time it’s done steeping, most of the juice should have exited its clementine skin host.
In a small stockpot or 3-quart sauce pan, toss everything in except for the scotch. Cover and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 90 minutes, giving it gentle stir every now and again.
Once the cider is done, remove from the heat and allow to cool for about five minutes. Strain out the peppercorns, clementine, cloves and cinnamon stick. Pour 8 ounces of the cider in a glass and add 2 ounces of scotch. Garnish with an orange peel and serve.
Yields about 5 drinks, but this cider is easily doubled or tripled for a larger gathering if made in a large stockpot or slow cooker.