A Witchy Batch Cocktail for Halloween

Brew this spicy, apple-infused potion (cauldron optional) for your next fall gathering

Photo: Courtesy of Harold’s Cabin

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.

photo: Courtesy of Harold’s Cabin


  • Witches Brew (Yield: ½ gallon)

    • 2 liters dry apple cider

    • 2 apples, sliced and cut into small triangles

    • 2 oranges, sliced and cut into small triangles

    • 5 sticks cinnamon, broken up

    • 2 tbsp. ground nutmeg

    • 6 whole cloves

    • 1 tsp. cardamom pods

    • 2 tbsp. allspice berries

    • ½ tbsp. whole black peppercorn

    • 2½ oz. ginger root

    • 8 oz. dark rum

    • 2 oz. dry curaçao

    • 2 oz. allspice dram

    • 1 oz. brandy


  1. Put spices in a spice bag or cheesecloth. Simmer the cider, fruit, and spices for at least 1 hour, being sure not to boil.

  2. Add rum, curaçao, allspice dram, and brandy into the slow cooker after the cider cools down to ensure the alcohol doesn’t burn off.

  3. Serve in a punch glass with a small cinnamon stick, apple and orange slices, and 1 star anise for garnish.