Mulling Spices

Mulled wine sets the tone for festive cold weather merriment. Make our simple mulling spices blend to keep or give to holiday party hosts. Works for mulled cider, too!

Stemless Wine Glass with Mulled Wine and Orange Slices on a Black Tray with Mandarin Orange Slices, Mandarin Oranges, and a Jar of Mulling Spices

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

A gently steaming pot of mulled wine sparks a sentimental glow during the winter months. Its heady scent, the warm mug in your hand, and (of course) the alcohol all work to warm the body from the inside out. Whole spices, such as cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, allspice, nutmeg, and ginger are common additions to mulling spices. I prefer the trifecta of cinnamon, cloves, and star anise. These spices conjure memories of the winter holidays and round out the sharpness in the wine, making a cozy, exceedingly drinkable party tipple. 

Making your own blend of mulling spices ensures that the spices are fresh. It costs less than buying a mulling kit, and makes a great hostess gift (with or without a bottle of wine to go with it).

Finding the Best Bulk Spices

Look to buy spices in bulk for the most cost-efficient and freshest spices. Well-stocked grocers have bulk whole spices next to the large bins of nuts and seeds. My neighborhood grocery store has a great selection, as well as Fred Meyer, which are my go-to options. Some Whole Foods carry bulk spices, as do international markets. Online, Curio Spice and The Spice House are good options for buying bulk whole spices.

Mulling Spices Flowing from a Spice Sachet Next to a Couple More Spice Bags

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Choosing Wines for Mulling 

Use a full-bodied, inexpensive dry red wine for making mulled wine. My favorites are Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec. Look on the back of the label for tasting descriptions that include notes of berry, which is a good indication that the wine will have a flavor profile that complements the mulling spices.

Wines classified as dry are the best choice for making mulled wine. Dry wines are the least sweet, which allows for more control when making mulled wine. No matter which type of dry wine you pick, make sure to choose an inexpensive bottle. The added sweeteners and spices that we use in the mulled wine round out and conceal nuanced flavors in the wine, which is a good thing in an inexpensive bottle and a waste of an expensive one!

Mulling Made Easy

To make mulled wine,  simply infuse spices into wine over low heat and add sweetener. The most important tip is to not boil the wine. You want it to be steaming but not boiling. Alcohol begins to cook off at around 170°F. Boiling the wine will cook off the alcohol and reduce the amount of liquid, leaving less to drink. Plus, the flavor intensifies, the wine becoming sweeter and the spices bitter . Look for the pot to be steaming or have the smallest of bubbles around the edges. Still in doubt? Check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer.

Thin-skinned oranges, such as mandarin (the little ones often labeled Cuties), are my favorite because of the lack of pith, which adds unwanted bitterness. 

Simple Tip!

Remember, red wine does stain. My white shirt and wooden spoon are wishing I would’ve remembered that when I was haphazardly pouring the wine into the pot and stirring it.

Close Up of Star Anise and Cloves for Mulling Spices

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Tips and Riffs

  • N/A mulled cider: The mulling spices also make delicious mulled cider. Use fresh apple cider and start with half the amount of sugar to avoid an overly sweet mulled cider.
  • Toast the spices for flavor: Toasting the spices before adding the wine intensifies the spices, which I recommend, but it’s also fine to skip this step and simply add the spices to the wine and honey mixture. 
  • Use a spice bag: Place the spices inside a spice bag before adding it to the pot. This makes it easier to remove them later. 
  • Use only whole spices: Ground spices lend a grittiness to the wine and don’t impart the same intensity of flavor. 

Make It a Gift

Mulling spices make a great gift for hosts, teachers, friends, and family! Fill a spice bag with the spices for one bottle of mulled wine and tie it around the bottle. Don’t forget to give the recipient the instructions. (Hint: this recipe is printable―print it out, roll it up like a scroll, and tie it to the bottle along with the bag of spices. Or just fold up the printed recipe and tuck it inside a card). 

Stemless Wine Glass with Mulled Wine and Orange Slices on a Black Tray with Mandarin Orange Slices, Mandarin Oranges, and a Jar of Mulling Spices

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Recipes for Jolly Drinks and Sips

Mulling Spices

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 34 mins
Total Time 39 mins
Servings 5 to 6 servings
Yield 4 batches mulling spice, each prepared batch serving 5-6

This recipe doubles effortlessly. Plan a couple extra minutes for the wine to warm up.

For easy gift-giving, use a spice bag to hold each batch of spices.

Ingredients

For the mulling spices

  • 8 star anise

  • 8 cinnamon sticks

  • 60 (1 tablespoon, 5g) cloves 

For making one batch of mulled wine

  • 2 star anise

  • 2 cinnamon sticks

  • 15 cloves

  • 1 (750ml) bottle of full-bodied dry red wine, such as Zinfandel 

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/3 cup honey, plus more to taste

  • 4 mandarin oranges (such as Cuties), sliced

Special Equipment

  • Spice bags or cheesecloth
  • Cooking twine, optional

Method

  1. Toast the spices:

    Add star anise, cinnamon sticks, and cloves to a medium, heavy-bottomed pot. Heat on medium and toast spices until fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring to avoid burning. 

    Simple Tip!

    For easy removal of the spices, tuck them into a spice bag or cheesecloth bundle after toasting.

    Mulling Spices (Cinnamon Sticks, Cloves, and Star Anise) in a Pot on the Stove

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

    Mulling Spices in a Spice Sachet

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

  2. Add the wine, honey, and oranges: 

    Once the spices are fragrant, carefully pour the wine into the pot and use a metal (or other non-staining) spoon to stir in the honey. Add half the orange slices, saving the remaining slices for serving. 

    Warm on medium heat, stirring regularly, until the mixture begins to steam, about 3 minutes. 

    Simple Tip!

    For a more hands-off experience, use the slow cooker. Stir the ingredients and heat on low for about 1 hour. Once hot, turn the slow cooker to the warm setting. The slow cooker prevents the liquid from boiling, making this a great option for when you don’t want to stand over the stove.

    Pot of Wine with Mulling Spices in a Spice Bag and Slices of Mandarin Oranges

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

  3. Mull the wine: 

    Lower the heat and continue mulling the wine for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and ensure that the liquid is steaming but not boiling (about 170°F).

    Simple Tip!

    You can taste as you go and mull the wine up to 1 hour 20 minutes for a more rounded flavor and to add additional water to compensate for evaporation loss.

  4. Remove the spices: 

    If using a spice bag, remove it from the wine.

    If you are not using a spice bag, you may either fish the orange slices and spices out with a skimmer, or set a strainer over a medium heat proof bowl and pour the mulled wine into the strainer to strain out the spices and orange slices.

  5. Taste and serve: 

    Return the mulled wine to the pot. Taste the wine and adjust, if needed: if it’s not sweet enough, add more honey; if it’s too intense, add up to 1/2 cup water. 

    Ladle into heatproof cups and top each with an orange slice. Keep remaining mulled wine warm by covering with a lid or transferring to a large thermos. Discard the spices.

  6. Store: 

    Cool any remaining mulled wine and refrigerate in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days. 

    Did you love this recipe? Leave us stars below!

    Simple Tip!

    You can freeze mulled wine! Pour the cooled wine into a heavy-duty gallon freezer bag (find mess-free tips for that here) and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before rewarming on low heat.

    Stemless Wine Glass with Mulled Wine and Orange Slices on a Black Tray with Mandarin Orange Slices, Mandarin Oranges, and a Jar of Mulling Spices

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
243 Calories
1g Fat
39g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
×
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 5 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 243
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 13mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 39g 14%
Dietary Fiber 4g 15%
Total Sugars 28g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 54mg 272%
Calcium 66mg 5%
Iron 2mg 8%
Potassium 462mg 10%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.