starbucks lovers: hot caramel apple cider

Happy Turkey Day!

Question: How do you pronounce "caramel"? I have very strong opinions about this because I'm from Carmel Valley, and therefore "caramel" pronounced any other way than "care-a-mel" is ridiculous to me. It gets me almost as heated as "gif" vs. "jif" (FIRST OF ALL, "Jif" is a peanut butter; secondly, the fact that you have to spell it differently to clarify proves that it's not the correct pronunciation; and thirdly, the "g" stands for "graphics" not "jraphics").

But I digress.

Anyone that knows me well knows that I am not a fan of Thanksgiving (is it not just a celebration of colonialism followed by an ugly display of consumerism?). As far as I'm concerned, after October 31st, it's Christmastime. But Thanksgiving food is unquestionably the best thing. Turkey? Yes. Mashed potatoes and gravy? Hell yes. Stuffing? Best thing since sliced bread (HA).

My homestay mom, in true American fashion, whipped up (or rather, spent the whole day in the kitchen preparing) a full Thanksgiving feast, with all the stops. It was delicious.

But one of the things I always look forward to at both our Thanksgiving and our Christmas tables is the mulled apple cider my real mom always makes. I could drink my weight in it. It's hot, just the right blend of sweet and tart, and makes you feel all warm and cozy. It's pretty much a hug in a mug (heheh). My mom just buys mulling spices and Treetop apple juice, and lets it simmer for a few hours in a Crock-Pot. I like the Starbucks version too, but it tends to be a bit too sweet for me.

I found a happy medium between the two and made my own after I was missing home a lil extra, and came across a recipe from Food Apparel called "Better Than Starbucks Homemade Caramel Apple Cider." Color me intrigued. So I made some to complement our Thanksgiving dinner.

This recipe requires caramel sauce, so I used one from the same blog, which was delicious, but surprisingly technical. I'm not going to go into all of the details here, but if you've never made caramel before, I suggest you visit their blog for some tips. But essentially, the better ingredients, the better the taste. So I went to Cold Storage and bought $14 cold-pressed Granny Smith Apple juice and also an absurd amount of creamy, unsalted butter (which is frustrating, considering I've accidentally made butter before when I was attempting whipped cream, and it was stupidly simple). The price of being domestic in Singapore. But regardless, the resulting apple cider is very, very worth it.


Yields: 4 peoples' worth (very relative)
Prep: 40 minutes (to make the caramel)
Cook: 5-20 minutes (depending on how long you like to let your cider mull)

homemade caramel

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 tbsp water

  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup

  • ¾ cup heavy cream (at room temperature)

  • 1 tbsp butter (at room temperature)

  • 1 tsp vanilla

First, the caramel. If you're not in the mood to make it from scratch, you can always use store-bought caramel, but I had some heavy cream from another recipe and figured, why not? I think I could have let it cook for a lot longer than I did, and I personally prefer my caramel darker and richer (the last time I made it for cookies it turned out really well, but it hardened super-fast), but such is life.

Combine the 1 cup sugar, 2 tbsp water, and 1 tbsp corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat (low and slow is key), bringing it to a low boil. Swirl the pan, but don't stir it.

Wait until the mixture turns amber in color, lower the heat, and add the ¾ cup cream and 1 tbsp butter. When bubbling calms, stir sauce until smooth. Add 1 tsp vanilla.

Remove from heat and pour into a heatproof jar. Cool for a bit, then serve. Well, if you're making the cider, you don't really have to, but if it's just the sauce, I would wait, because the butter makes it really hot.


  • 4 to 6 cups cold-pressed apple juice (because you're extra like that)

  • ¼ cup caramel sauce

  • 2 cinnamon sticks*

  • 6 whole cloves*

  • 6 allspice berries*

*If you don't have these things, like I didn't, you can just use a pre-made blend of mulling spices (I used some from Williams-Sonoma but Harry & David also has good ones).

The cider is a bit more straightforward: just toss all of the ingredients in a pot and let it simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally; then, lower the heat just to keep it warm and strain cider into glasses.

Top it off with some super-simple whipped cream using the leftover heavy cream (you may recognize it from the time I made chocolate pudding on here), drizzle some extra caramel on top, and you're good to go!

Minute Thought: I like that Black Friday is calming down a little and that companies like REI and Patagonia are starting to kind of protest it and attempt to draw something positive from it. It gives me a little hope. I'm as guilty as everyone else when it comes to Sephora sales (my coworkers and I have a list of things to buy), but I still believe that Thanksgiving, for all its faults, should be about spending quality time with people you love and thinking about how much you appreciate everything good in your life.


Hope you have a wonderful night and eat lots of food, and cheers to the upcoming (better-than-Thanksgiving) holiday season!