Three Slow Cooker Cocktails For Easy Entertaining

I’m a martini girl pretty much year-round, but cold-weather gatherings always make me crave a big pot of something warm and festive. Mulled wine, cider, and cocoa can all be easily made on the stove, but I prefer the “fix it and forget it” method of cocktail crafting. Letting everything get to know each other in your slow cooker instead of on the stove requires a less watchful eye, freeing you up to mix and mingle.


Photo by Claire Lower

Cherry Cranberry Cider

Nothing against apple cider, but the internet is pretty saturated with recipes for the stuff. This recipe pairs sweet dark cherry juice (a blend is fine, just make sure it’s all fruit juice) and tart cranberry with rum and spices to make a sweet and sour cider that is sure to stand out in a sea of apple offerings. (Oh, and not that I think you’ll have any leftovers, but if you do, don’t worry; this beverage is also great chilled.)

Ingredients (makes 8-10 servings):

6 cups cherry juice blend
1 cup pure, unsweetened cranberry juice
2 cup dark rum
4 cinnamon sticks
Zest of one orange, peeled in strips using a vegetable peeler
1 whole nutmeg seed, cracked

Optional Garnish:

Cinnamon sticks
Strips of orange zest

Combine everything in a slow cooker and heat on low for four hours or high for two. Serve with cinnamon sticks or strips of orange zest for garnish.


Photo by Claire Lower

Hot Chocolate Orange

I enjoy the holidays, but what I really look forward to is the beginning of Chocolate Orange Season. Those orange-scented orbs of chocolate aren’t only delicious, but interactive; smashing them into segments is half of the fun. What we have here is basically a boozy, drinkable chocolate orange. It requires just a touch of stove work, but it is entirely worth it.

Ingredients (makes 8 servings):

3 cups whole milk
10 ounces dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa), roughly chopped
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 cup orange-flavored whiskey, such as Bonnie Rose Orange Peel

Optional Garnishes:

Whipped cream
Cocoa powder
Orange zest
Chopped chocolate

Add milk to slow cooker and heat on high until warmed throughout. Once milk is warm, combine chopped chocolate and condensed milk in a medium sauce pan and cook over the lowest possible heat, stirring constantly until chocolate has fully melted and combined with condensed milk. Add chocolate mixture to slow cooker and whisk until completely homogenized. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Heat in slow cooker for another hour, or until cocoa is hot. Ladle into mugs and top with whipped cream, cocoa powder, and orange zest. (One word of caution: if it stands too long undisturbed, the cocoa may form a “skin” on top. This isn’t a big deal, just skim it off the top.)


Photo by Claire Lower

Ginger Mulled Wine

To me, mulled wine isn’t so much about the wine, but the things you put into the wine. For that reason, please do not spend more than ten bucks on a bottle if you plan to mull it. (I got a good blend at Trader Joe’s for five.) What you should invest in, however, are your mulling mix-ins. A good ginger beer — not ale — such as Reed’s provides a whole battery of flavors in the convenience of a bottle, and it’s worth getting the “good stuff” for the most complex flavor. Black cardamom, along with cinnamon and cloves, adds an earthy smokiness that keeps the whole thing from veering towards too sweet.

Ingredients (makes 8 servings):

1 bottle red wine blend
24 ounces (two bottles) of best-quality ginger beer
The zest of one lemon, in strips
2 black cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves

Optional Garnish:

Candied ginger

Combine everything in a slow cooker and heat on low for four hours or high for two. Serve with skewers of candied ginger.

More cocktail ideas to inspire you this holiday season:

5 Ways to Enjoy a Shrub Cocktail This Fall

Yes, You Can Make Peach Schnapps into Awesome Cocktails

Where America’s Best Bartenders Love to Grab a Drink

Here’s What Bartenders Think of You Based on Your Drink Order