Recipes / Sips & Syrups

Sparkling Apple Cider Sangria

Sparkling apple cider sangria

Once you’ve had a sip of freshly pressed, unfiltered, unsweetened apple cider, the “apple juice” sold in stores just cannot compare. And luckily for those who’ve never tried it, fresh apple cider abounds this time of year.

What exactly is the difference between apple cider and apple juice? After all, cider is essentially the juice extracted from apples. But both names persist in the marketplace, and in the United States, only a handful of states actually regulate what can and can’t be labeled as cider. Massachusetts, for instance, clearly defines cider as unfiltered and unpasteurized juice, while other locales call their filtered and pasteurized juice as apple cider, simply because it might appeal more to their market area.

If you want the good stuff, look for a refrigerated, non-shelf stable juice that’s opaque in color with some sediment at the bottom of the jug. That’s your best clue that you’re buying raw apple juice without any filtration, pasteurization, preservatives, or sweeteners. I like to call this apple cider, a term that evokes old-fashioned apple juice for me and differentiates it from the juices that have been clarified, sweetened, and/or heat-treated for longer life.

When you buy it from an apple orchard or a local juicery, raw apple cider (also called sweet cider or soft cider) is unpasteurized, a natural state that allows beneficial bacteria from the fruit to ferment the cider over time.

Old-fashioned cider press

Wooden apple cider press

For the first week, it’s like drinking fresh, ripe apples — lightly fizzy and naturally sweet with a rich body that can only come from pressed fruit (and not a diluted juice concentrate). This is far from the apple cider of Martinelli’s fame (which actually only calls their product apple cider as a marketing gimmick; the company admits that their pasteurized apple cider and apple juice are one and the same).

By the second week, it’s on its way to becoming hard cider, a fermented alcoholic beverage that’s dry and complex in flavor. Hard cider has subtle apple notes, but tastes no more like apples than wine tastes like grapes. The longer you let it sit, the stronger (and more alcoholic) the brew becomes.

Let the cider ferment for another few weeks, and you’ll end up with apple cider vinegar — the prebiotic-filled and enzyme-rich kind with the mother in it. As hard cider continues to ferment, the alcohol transforms into acetic acid, giving it the characteristic pungent smell and sour taste of vinegar (and all the health benefits of raw cider vinegar).

That means when you get yourself a gallon of pure, unpasteurized apple cider, you can actually turn it into a couple of things in the kitchen — including this sparkling apple cider sangria. I use young cider for its sweetness, which eliminates the need for any sugar in this recipe. Fresh cranberries (another seasonal fall favorite!) adds color and tartness.

For a little variation, you can top with a handful of pomegranate seeds, or booze it up with apple brandy or ginger brandy.

Slice apples into matchsticks

Sparkling Apple Cider Sangria

Makes 8 servings


1 (750 ml) bottle dry white wine
2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup brandy
2 medium apples, cored and cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup fresh cranberries, sliced, plus more for garnishing
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 cups club soda


In a large pitcher, combine the wine, cider, brandy, apples, cranberries, and ginger.

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher

Chill the sangria while the fruits infuse, at least 30 minutes. Stir in the club soda before serving (or, top off each glass with club soda) and add a few sliced cranberries to each glass.

Sangria with apples and cranberries

Sparkling apple cider sangria

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »


  • Linh Tang
    October 6, 2016 at 1:49 am

    This looks SO good. We have a huge apple tree and already made tons of apple chips, apple chicken, apple pancakes, you name it, AND been drinking apple cider for the whole month and still have probably another 2 weeks left of apples. Certainly will try this tomorrow. Thanks.

    • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
      October 14, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      I’m so jealous! I would love to have a tree just for fresh apple cider!

  • Joanne
    October 30, 2014 at 6:02 am

    Any suggestion on substitution for brandy?? Thank you!

    • Linda Ly
      November 3, 2014 at 6:03 pm

      Cognac, triple sec, or your favorite liqueur would work well here. Each one would give a subtle different flavor to the sangria.

  • Mallory Larkin
    October 28, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    This sounds awesome and since it’s Cider season hear in MA I can’t wait to try it! I sometimes forget that not everyone has access to fresh pressed cider (my town has a Apple & Peach festival and a handful of orchards).

    • Linda Ly
      November 3, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      Ohhh, lucky you! Our apple farms are a couple hours’ drive away.

  • Trang
    October 27, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    This drink looks amazing, it would be a perfect alternative to the hot apple cider we usually make for Thanksgiving dinner!

  • thefolia
    October 23, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Those are cranberries? They look intriguing can’t wait to try fresh cranberries. Cheers!

    • Linda Ly
      October 23, 2014 at 4:49 pm

      Yep, the same ones you cook for cranberry sauce. They are delicious when fresh too!

      • thefolia
        October 24, 2014 at 10:04 am

        I never saw them sliced before…what an interesting design they have.

  • Julie
    October 23, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Well…thanks to you, I think I know what drink I’m serving tomorrow night for a little “cocktails and crafts” party! YUM.

    • Linda Ly
      October 23, 2014 at 4:58 pm

      If you have a big crowd (or not… my husband and I easily drank a whole pitcher during marathon movie night!), I suggest doubling the cider, brandy and fruits, steeping them in the wine, and then adding a bottle of sparkling wine when ready to serve! It’s the perfect punch bowl for a party.

  • Luisa
    October 23, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Well…this sounds quite amazing!


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