Orange and cranberry are a natural combination. To them I've added the subtle licorice flavor of fennel seeds. When you sip on this warm cider you definitely taste the tart cranberries, sweet citrus from the orange liqueur and then this little something else that you can hardly identify but that manages to make the drink soar. Normally when I serve hot cider to guests I omit the booze and put the bottle on the table so that anyone who wants some can add. In this case, the intense orange flavor is so necessary that I pour it into the mix and warn my guests that somebody's spiked the cider.
1 medium-sized orange
2 tablespoons of fennel seeds, crushed a bit in a mortar and pestle or with the side of a big knife
4 cups of cranberry juice
2 ounces of orange liqueur (my preference is Cointreau but you could also use Triple Sec or Grand Marnier)
Remove 6 big strips of orange zest from the orange (space them out if you'd like so that the orange slices you cut later have a zebra-like orange and white trim). Put them in a medium saucepan with the crushed up fennel seeds and the cranberry juice. Partially cover the pan and bring the juice to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and let the cranberry juice infuse with licorice and citrus for 20 minutes. taste the juice. If you can't detect much of the fennel, let it simmer on low for another 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice the orange.
Line a sieve with a coffee filter or a double latyer of cheesecloth. Put the sieve over a medium sized bowl. Pour the hot cranberry juice through the sieve and into the bowl. Rinse out the saucepan and pour the warmed juice back in. Heat it over medium heat until it simmers. Drizzle in the orange liqueur. Stir. Ladle into 4 mugs and garnish with the orange slices.
Recipe by Cook the Story at http://www.cookthestory.com/2012/11/21/cranberry-cider-recipe-with-fennel-and-orange/