Harold’s Cabin in Charleston, South Carolina, takes the holidays very seriously. The eclectic Westside restaurant, which started out as a neighborhood corner store and grocery in the 1930s, began brainstorming for Halloween and Christmas this July. As customers (myself included) flocked inside to cool off with a frosty strawberry daiquiri, bar manager Michael DeNicola was already talking about warm fall drinks and reflecting on last winter’s mulled wine recipe. “I wanted a hot, steaming cider to go with the Halloween Town theme,” DeNicola says. “Our local supplier had a really nice dry cider from Apple Wedge in Hendersonville, North Carolina, that allowed me to add my own spices and booze.”
DeNicola researched other mulled cider recipes, piecing together his favorite elements to brew his own special batch. “I looked at a British one with a lot of hard baking spices like black cardamom and cloves,” he says. “And I used a lot of old cooking books, too. It was a Frankenstein of different recipes.” The kitchen of Harold’s Cabin also provided its own inspiration: When rummaging through old bottles, DeNicola located a licorice-scented surprise. “We inherited six bottles of allspice liquor we didn’t use. Part of being a good bartender is using those leftover products,” he says.
The resulting concoction is an ode to fall, bringing together apples and oranges with ginger slices, black peppercorn, whole allspice berries, cinnamon, and cardamom, plus other fragrant baking spices. The dry cider complements the four flavorful, warming liquors that are added to the pot. “To me, it’s like warm apple pie in a glass. When we go into the kitchen, it smells like the filling before you make the pie,” DeNicola says.
And if you’re going all-out this spooky season, you can even make your own cauldron. DeNicola picked up his own plastic witches’ cooking pot at the store and spray-painted it to look old and dusty. “My eight-quart crock pot fits right into it,” he says. “I can keep the cider hot in the cauldron, and to guests, it looks like I’m dipping right into it.” For the final touch, DeNicola carefully tucks dry ice into the cauldron for a puff of mystic bubbles and fog.*
*Harold’s Cabin practices extreme caution when using dry ice in the “cauldron” to create the illusion of smoke and bubbles.