I did cheat and combine two cider recipes I found on Allrecpes - I used this as the base, then tossed in 6 packets of mandarin orange tea and a boquet garni (made out of a coffee filter that I stapled closed) with 6 whole cloves, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. ground allspice). I scaled the recipe to 1 gallon and poured it into my big crockpot a few hours before my holiday party. Once it was hot, I added a dollop of butter (about 2-3 tbsp). It sounds crazy, but a little butter adds a smooth richness and concentrates the flavors. Trust me. The hot cider was a massive hit! I had another gallon of cider and as people dipped out of the crockpot, I topped it off with fresh cider and a little more maple syrup. I kept a bottle of Captain Morgan's spiced rum next to the hot cider so people could make it a little more "merry" if they wished. My two gallons of cider was inhaled by 14 people in less than an hour and everyone was begging for the recipe. I made it again for Christmas Day brunch and kept it going through the day, with the same rave reviews (but a different group of drinkers). The maple syrup and butter are key to the great flavor. I also served Gingerbread Man shooters (equal parts Baileys, butterscotch schnapps, & cinnamon schnapps, w/ a splash of vodka) topped w/ whipped cream - a fun pairing of drinks for the holidays!
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I did cheat and combine two cider recipes I found on Allrecpes - I used this as the base, then...