Mulled wine and cider are one of my favorite parts of winter. The scents of spices remind me of the richness that holidays bring, and the ways in which we are all connected – the seeds, buds, and bark of allspice, clove, and cinnamon are harvested so far from where I sit at this moment. Throughout history they have traversed the world – mingling cultures, seasoning our imaginations, flavoring our understandings. Spices were one of the first reasons for us to explore and travel – we forget that, sometimes.
Remind yourself of how connected we are with those who came before, and those who live on the other side of the world. Use some spices!
Note: These quantities are approximate, and designed for the average bottle of wine (26 oz / 750 mL). I usually make a larger quantity and store the spice mix in an airtight tin or glass jar next to my cooking spices. This is a dry mixture, which means it will keep easily. Fresh orange peel may be used instead of dried – but should be added at the time of mulling.
6 – 8 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise pods
2 tbsp dried orange peel (or fresh orange peel added at the time of mulling.)
1/2 c brown or turbinado sugar
Note: For those who want an alcohol-free alternative, apple cider is a wonderful way to go. When mulling cider there is no need for the addition of sugar or water.
The idea of adding water has sparked controversy amongst my American friends. I know that we all love that light and airy buzz that the full strength of wine brings! Here is why I do it: The spices sing and dance, the fruit of the wine comes forward, and several of my German friends have told me that water is their secret.
- Break spices a little with a mortar and pestle. (I like to put the spices in a natural cotton bag – a teabag of sorts. This saves time fishing bits out of the wine later).
- Pour the bottle of wine into a small stock pot or slow cooker. Refill the bottle with water. Add this water to the wine.
- Immerse prepared bag of spices in the wine.
- Set the heat to medium. While wine mixture is heating, stir in sugar until completely dissolved.
- Cover and simmer wine for a few hours – until the fragrance of the spices has permeated the house.
- Serve in mugs to your friends, family, and of course yourself!
As always, experiment! If you don’t like the anise, omit it! If you want the lemony bite of coriander, add it! Sometimes I am extra daring and I toss in some cardamom pods or sweeten the wine with orange juice and honey instead of sugar… be creative. In the kitchen, your instincts are a friend. Have some fun! (And a very happy holiday season.)