Hot Cranberry Cider

This hot cranberry cider recipe has sweet orange & subtle licorice flavors. It’s the perfect drink for the holidays.

This hot cranberry cider recipe has sweet orange & subtle licorice flavors. Get the easy holiday drink recipe on

Cranberry for the Holidays?

The turkey on my dinner plate is never pinkened by a smear of cranberry sauce. The only thing I put on my turkey is gravy. But I always have cranberry sauce on the table, not just for those who like it with turkey, but because its pretty color adds spirit to the table setting.

That scarlet hue alone could proclaim that the holiday season has arrived!

So while I don’t eat the cranberry sauce itself (although I have been known to use the leftovers as a Black Friday breakfast spread for buttery toast), I do like to have something cranberry-sauce-esque to enjoy on Thanksgiving. That’s how my hot cranberry cider recipe was born.

Hot Cranberry Cider

Today I’m sharing a hot cranberry cider recipe with fennel and orange.

Orange and cranberry are a natural combination. To them I’ve added the subtle licorice flavor of fennel seeds. When you sip on this warm cider you definitely taste the tart cranberries, sweet citrus from the orange liqueur, and then this little something else that you can hardly identify but that manages to make the drink soar.

Normally when I serve hot cider to guests I omit the booze and put the bottle on the table so that anyone who wants some can add. In this case, the intense orange flavor is so necessary that I pour it into the mix and warn my guests that somebody’s spiked the cider. My preference is Cointreau, but you could also use Triple Sec or Grand Marnier.


Because I know that plenty of you do enjoy cranberries for the holidays, I’ve also got a cranberry sauce smoothie recipe that you can make with your leftover cranberry sauce.





Hot Cranberry Cider

  • Author: Christine Pittman
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings


This hot cranberry cider recipe has sweet orange & subtle licorice flavors. It’s the perfect drink for the holidays.


  • 1 medium-sized orange
  • 2 tablespoons of fennel seeds, crushed a bit in a mortar and pestle or with the side of a big knife
  • 4 cups of cranberry juice
  • 2 ounces of orange liqueur (optional)


  1. Remove 6 big strips of orange zest from the orange (space them out if you’d like so that the orange slices you cut later have a zebra-like orange and white trim). Put them in a medium saucepan with the crushed up fennel seeds and the cranberry juice. Partially cover the pan and bring the juice to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and let the cranberry juice infuse for 20 minutes. taste the juice. If you can’t detect much of the fennel, let it simmer on low for another 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, slice the orange.
  3. Line a sieve with a coffee filter or a double layer of cheesecloth. Put the sieve over a medium sized bowl. Pour the hot cranberry juice through the sieve and into the bowl.
  4. Rinse out the saucepan and pour the warmed juice back in. Cook over medium heat until it simmers. Drizzle in the orange liqueur My preference is Cointreau, but you could also use Triple Sec or Grand Marnier. Stir.
  5. Ladle into 4 mugs and garnish with the orange slices.
This post originally appeared in November 2012 and was revised and republished in November 2020.
Hot Cranberry Cider

10 responses to “Hot Cranberry Cider”

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  5. Happy Fennel Friday! We love this recipe and it is featured on our Fennel Drink recipe round-up this week! THANKS!

  6. […] Christmas Time!” from the rooftops. I love the combination so much that I also used it in a hot cider recipe earlier this […]

  7. Rachel says:

    WHOA. This sounds great… wonder how it would be with limoncello for the “kick”. Hmmm… mmmmmmmm!! Can’t rate this recipe until I try it but it certainly has me interested!

    • Christine Pittman says:

      Rachel, I think it would be fantastic with limoncello! I love orange and fennel together and so chose the orange liqueur. But next time I make a batch I’ll opt for the lemon kick to try it out. Thanks for the suggestion!

  8. Paula says:

    I love cranberry juice but I don’t like eating cranberries. I too, just have gravy with my turkey (oh, and stuffing…lots of stuffing). I do think that I would enjoy this cranberry cider though and how pretty would the filled glasses look on the table! Great photograph.

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