Curling up with a good book and a cup of hot cider on a chilly afternoon is the kind of activity that makes cold weather (almost) welcome. This version is spicier than most and will really warm you to the bone.
Yield: Makes 8 Servings
6 quarter-sized slices peeled fresh ginger
6 star anise
Four 3-inch-long cinnamon sticks, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
1 quart fresh apple cider
Calvados or applejack, for serving (optional)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1. Rinse and squeeze out a 12-inch square of cheesecloth. Wrap the ginger, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, and Sichuan peppercorns in the cheesecloth. Using a piece of kitchen twine, tie it into a packet.
2. Pour the cider in a large nonreactive saucepan and add the spice bundle. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
3. Ladle the cider into warmed mugs. Add a dry cinnamon stick to each mug, and spike with Calvados. Top each with a pat of butter. Serve hot.