Winter is coming. In Minnesota, it usually starts a little earlier and lasts a little longer than a “normal” winter. This year, it has been warm and not-so-snowy, which for a snow lover like myself, I am finding a little disappointing. I want massive snowstorms every weekend! I want skiing and snow forts! I want to go outside, freeze my ass off and then go sit on the couch and warm up with a little hot beverage. I want Vanilla Brandy Cider!
The warm beverage season keeps my insides toasty and happy. Yes, yes, there are pumpkin spice lattes, hot chocolates and my yummy Tom & Jerry, but my Vanilla Brandy Cider keeps me smiling all fall long. And you want to know why? Because: brandy.
Good enough reason, right? Brandy pairs with apple cider so perfectly, like peanut butter and jelly, but in the liquid sense. It just works. Here is a quick history lesson on brandy if the thought of it doesn’t exactly get your mouth watering. Brandy, if you don’t know, is grape based and the name is the Dutch word for “burnt wine.” It can be made from the juice of not only grapes, but apple, blackberry, or any fruit that, when mashed, makes juice. Basically, if you like wine, you will like this. And if you don’t like wine, you will still love adding brandy to apple cider. This concludes your random alcoholic beverage facts for the day.
Back to my go-to fall cocktail.
Yes, it’s as flavorful and tasty as the name suggests. Would you believe it warms your bones when the air gets nippy? Fact. That is why I love it and why I buy a couple of gallons (yes, GALLONS) of apple cider from my favorite local apple orchard. Apple cider keeps its freshness for a few months and if you buy a great cider late in the season, it can last well into winter. Simmering a vanilla bean into the cider just ups the flavor to an insane level. The hot cider mixed with the vanilla, plus cinnamon and the brandy is a fiesta for your nose. The scent is heavenly, followed by the taste which is off-the-charts-fall-goodness.
Have I sold you on the idea yet? Yes? Fabulous. Here is how you make your own Vanilla Brandy Cider.
3 cups apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 of a vanilla bean, split & scraped
4 oz of brandy
Combine 3 cups of apple cider, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean in a small saucepan and bring to a low boil. Simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain cider to remove cinnamon and vanilla bean contents. Fill a mug 3/4 of the way with cider. Then, add 2 ounces of brandy to mug, stir and enjoy. Makes enough for 2 servings. Feel free to double the recipe for a group, but 1 cinnamon stick should suffice for a larger batch.
Now only if the weather would cooperate. Come on, El Niño, you’re cramping my winter style, my insides haven’t frozen solid yet. Let’s get below freezing already so I can thaw out my internal organs with warm, boozy drinks.