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How to Make Slow Cooker Holiday Drinks

Sarah Breckenridge and Colin Russell; videography by Brian McAward. Hosted by Nicki Sizemore
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When you’re hosting a holiday party, you want your guests to enjoy your fabulous taste in cocktails, but do you really want to be playing bartender all night? Of course not. Instead, Use your slow cooker to set up a warm self-serve drink station. It frees you up from the bar and it keeps those drinks everyone loves like mulled wine and hot cider at the perfect temperature. Here are a few tips for adapting most any hot drink recipe to a slow cooker:

  • First, if you’re mulling wine or cider with whole spices like cloves, anise or cinnamon sticks, it’s a great idea to toast them first. This helps bring out the spices’ flavors since you won’t be bringing the mixture to a full boil.
  • Just toss the spices in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes until they’re fragrant.
  • After toasting, tie up the spices in a cheesecloth bundle-this way you don’t have to pour the punch through a strainer, and guests won’t have to fish them out of their drinks. If your party lasts a long time, like an open house, this also lets you take out the bundle after a few hours, any longer and you may find certain flavors, like citrus peels, start to contribute bitterness to the drink.
  • Start your slow cooker on high for about half an hour to dissolve any sugar in the recipe and infuse your liquids with spices. Then you add your spirits and turn to low, or even the “keep warm” setting, to avoid cooking off the alcohol.
  • And if your drink is just spiked with spirits-like say a spiked hot chocolate or cider-rather than based  on them, like a mulled wine, you might consider not adding it to the slow cooker at all and just have a bottle nearby so that guests can add their own.
  • In fact, for a really festive bar, create a whole buffet of drink garnishes, so guests can finish off the cocktail just the way they like. Think citrus or apple slices for mulled wine and cider, and whipped cream, crushed candy, and caramel to drizzle over cocoa and coffee drinks.

Browse our hot drink recipes for more ideas on what you can make in your slow cooker.


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