It's the season we pull out all the stops for things warm and comforting, for cinnamon and vanilla, for clove and ginger. It's the time for giant mugs of hot cocoa, steaming cups of tea, and fortifying mulled wine -- a long-standing traditional drink for cold climates that marries the warmth of alcohol with the invigorating flavors of mulling spices. Want to whip some up for the holiday or to enjoy during the next snowfall? Here are some of the best wines for mulling spices.
White Wines + Plain Mulling Spices
Stick with wines that fall more on the sweet, light, and floral side for best pairing with the flavors of a more traditional mulling spice. White wines like riesling, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay are perfect if you want something on the drier end, while moscato and viognier work well for sweet wine lovers. Lighter fruit wines such as peach and strawberry mull up to a delicious, cobbler-like dessert drink.
Red Wines + Vanilla Mulling Spices
Honestly, you can use whatever wine and mulling spice combination you like, but I find that fruity, dark, complex reds balance amazingly with vanilla mulling spices. Wines like merlot and pinot noir are always a safe bet, while your cabernet francs and sauvignons provide a heartier beverage; naturally, Bordeaux style wines work well, too. For dessert, try vanilla mulling spices with a rich port (serve up some chocolate on the side).
Other Wines + Mulling Spices
Rosé and blush wines can go either way depending on the individual wine. General rule: You're always safe with plain, but vanilla spice usually pairs nicely with anything fruity (for an example, check out this Spiced Apple Wine recipe). I'd also recommend beginners stay away from "spicier" wines such as malbec and syrah/shiraz because the addition of mulling spices could be too strong.
Need to know how to mull your wine? It's easy! Use 1/2 ounce of mulling spices for 1 bottle of wine or 1-2 quarts of cider. Place spices in a filter bag, tea infuser ball, or cheesecloth, or add them loose to the pot. Pour in wine or cider and simmer on low heat for approximately 20 minutes before serving.
Other Alcohols + Mulling Spices
Wine is wonderful, but mulling spices are lovely with liquor, too. Just like with wine, plain mulling spices are always a safe bet, but alcohols with darker, malty notes can handle the addition of vanilla like champs.
Sake, whiskey/whisky, and most beers pair nicely with traditional mulling spices, while rum, bourbon, cognac, and hard cider are perfect for highlighting the vanilla mulling spices. Vodka, brandy, and mead can work both fields. Not recommended: gin, because the botanicals that make it so wonderful on its own don't play nicely with mulling spices.
Use your spiced alcohol to get creative with any number of festive cocktails. If you really want to get fancy, whip up some Swedish glogg for your holiday party. As part of the recipe you get to light it on fire, which is always good fun.
Want more ideas for how to use mulling spices? Check out our article on 30 Ways to Use Mulling Spices.