So this is a nostalgic one, guys.
Today is our anniversary and I've had a severe case of the Wedding Nostalgias all month.
I know at the time I was stressed out like crazy with all the details of coordinating what went where and when, and whether my embarrassingly detailed "Setup Manifesto" was sufficient to communicate all of this. We were on a pretty tight budget and handcrafted the majority of our reception setup to cut down on costs. But looking back from the safe distance of all-that-planning-is-over-now... boy, do I wish I could teleport right back into the middle of it.
It was the middle of January in the midwest - not exactly the time of year I'd wanted to get married since I always leaned towards the outdoor variety. But that's how the timing fell and what resulted was this magical, candlelit, evening full of hot soups, freshly baked loaves of bread, homemade herb butters, and this wonderful hot ginger-apple toddy we developed in the months leading up. Not to mention the gorgeous spice cake with cranberry-raspberry compote and coffee-cardamom frosting that my sister made for the occasion. (I'll be sharing that recipe next week - stay tuned!) Suffice to say, I ended up not minding that winter weather quite so much.
The ginger-apple toddy was definitely a star of the party. The ginger cuts through the apple and honey sweetness with a warm, spiced finish that definitely keeps out the winter chill. As the sign we made for the bar said,
O the weather outside is frightful, but this toddy is so delightful!
Warm your shivering bones with a cup full of warm apple cider,
infused with spices and freshly sliced ginger.
A splash of bourbon and a whisper of fresh lemon round out
this winter medley, which is sure to make your heart sing out,
"Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"
Ok, so I'm a total cheeseball. We've established that.
But seriously, this drink is the perfect thing for chilly, winter evenings. Whether serving it at an event or just sipping on one while curled up in a sweater and wool socks, it feels oh so festive. And don't we all need a bit of festivity once the holidays have passed? We've got to ease ourselves into the Dark Times (that first third of the year here in Chicago). And this is an excellent balm.
It's a simple drink to make. It requires a little advance prep, but nothing daunting. I recommend making the cider in advance and having it on hand, especially if you're making this for a party or other event. But it's also quite doable as a day-of endeavor. Just be sure you set aside an hour of additional prep time so the cider has time to steep.
hot ginger-apple toddy
For the infused cider
½ gallon apple cider
approx 2" fresh ginger root, coarsely chopped
1-2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise pods (optional, but highly recommended)
For the cocktail
6 oz. infused cider
a thin slice of fresh ginger for a garnish*
a drizzle of honey
2 oz. bourbon
slice of lemon
Peel and chop the ginger root. There's no need to be neat about this or to chop it too finely. I give it a rough chop and toss it on in.
Bring the apple cider to a boil in a pot over high heat. Non-aluminum pots are best for this. Once boiling, add the chopped ginger, the cinnamon stick(s), and the star anise.
Turn off the heat and steep for at least 30 minutes.
Once the cider has steeped, strain out the ginger, cinnamon, and anise. Use the infused cider immediately or refrigerate until ready.
Hot Ginger-Apple Toddy
If you made the infused cider in advance, heat it over medium heat. Be sure you do not boil the cider.
Add 6 oz. of cider, the bourbon, and the honey to your serving mug and stir to combine.
Garnish with a slice of lemon and either a fresh ginger slice or candied ginger.
*You can also use crystallized/candied ginger if you prefer - we went that route for the wedding because it was easier to prep in advance.