Although Charlotte’s weather is a roller coaster, when it gets cold (for 2 days lol), I love making a warm cocktail to warm the soul. I made this hot toddy for a socially distanced gathering of my cooking club ladies. We ate around an outdoor fire pit, and used this drink as our ‘dessert’!

Both warm and strong, this cider has a strong apple flavor, but then has that bourbon and lemon. They say that alcohol kills germs, and with all the covid germs around, it’s an extra great occasion to drink up. (Okay, the killing germ part is debatable, but it does make you feel better!)

I decided to use the local TOPO Eight Oak Whisky for this particular recipe, but use a liquor of your choice.

The recipe below serves 2 people, but it’s super easy to add more cider and bourbon for a crowd.


  • 1.5 cups apple cider
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 lemon zested into strips and juiced
  • 3 oz bourbon, of your choice


In a saucepot, combine apple cider, cinnamon, and star anise. Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and cover with a lid.  

Allow spices to steep for 10 minutes or so, making sure the cinnamon stick opens up.

Stir in bourbon and lemon juice.

(If you prefer your drink sweeter, add maple syrup here. However, I felt the cider was sweet enough.)

Serve with any of the following: sliced apples, sliced lemons, cinnamon sticks, or star anise.

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