How to Use Mulling Spices for Cider

One of the best things about the fall is the scent of warm mulled spices in the air. Serving mulled cider to guests is a great and often overlooked way to share time together in the cozy fall and winter weather.

One of my favorite things about the fall is the scent of warm mulled spices in the air (No, not pumpkin spice everywhere, but that’s good, too!).  Serving mulled cider to guests is a great way to share time together in the cozy fall weather.  Have you ever stopped to consider, what are mulling spices? Let’s take a look at this centuries-old method for serving spicy, warm beverages.

Nice Spices

You may notice a familiar and delightful scent in the air when you enter a friend’s home during the holidays. It’s a combination of sweetness and spiciness wafting through the air.  What is it?  It might be the wonderful aroma of mulling spices.  

Mulling spices are a mixture of spices used in drink recipes, generally around the holidays.  Traditionally, the mix is made up of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and allspice. This delightful spice mix are mulling spices, and a drink using them is "mulled". 

What is “Mulled”?

Mulled is a funny word!  What exactly does it mean?  Mulled is the word used for heating the base liquid of a beverage, such as cider or wine, with spices until they infuse the liquid with their flavors.  The spices are then strained off before sipping the warm drink.  

Mulled spices have been around since the Roman Empire. The first appearance in history of mulled spices was around 20 AD, used by Romans to spice their wine as they traveled across the country.

What is Cider?

It’s funny how we often take commonly known beverages for granted and forget to ask questions about them.  We can see that there is a difference between cider and juice because one is cloudy and the other is clear.  So, what accounts for this difference?  

Juice goes through a filtering process to remove sediment and pulp, leaving the juice clear enough to see through when bottled.  Cider hasn’t been filtered in the same way and so it remains intact with whatever it was pressed with, giving it a cloudy look.

Spicy Cider

Cider on its own is a lovely beverage, any time of year, really.  However, it does seem to take center stage as the weather cools down around the holidays.  It’s easy enough to make your own mulled cider at home.

You’ll want to find a good quality cider to start with. Make sure it doesn’t already have added sugar and spices.  Even better, you may be able to track down a local, unpasteurized version.  This type of cider lends its earthiness to the complexity of the warmed drink. 

Mulled spices are sold already mixed together or you can customize your own blend if there are certain spices you love and want to feature. You might pick any of the following to dress up your cider: fresh ginger, brown sugar, orange slices, clove sticks,  cinnamon sticks, star anise, black peppercorns, or even allspice berries.

To help keep your smaller spices neat and tidy, you might choose to wrap them in a cheesecloth or use a tea pocket.  This will make it very easy to serve from the pot you are simmering in.  You may choose to strain your mulled cider before serving, but I usually prefer to leave the spices in the whole time for maximum flavor. 

These orange slices and cinnamon sticks make great garnishes to mulled cider.


Mulled cider is simply one of the easiest and simplest concoctions to create for your festivities.  One of my favorite ways is to simply put the cider in a saucepan on the stove on low heat and add in the loose spices.  Letting it simmer on a very, very low setting allows the fragrances to unfold delicately, without overheating the mixture.  

You never want your cider to come to a full boil or it will take a long time to cool to be able to serve to guests.  Think of the stovetop as a warming server, just keeping the beverage at a cozy temp.  To serve, use a ladle to scoop out the spiced cider, maneuvering around the loose spices.  It’s OK to get some spices in your mug; just sip around them. 

Slow it Down

A slow cooker lends itself well to making Mulled Cider.  You can make the beverage in the pot and also keep it at a constant temp for serving throughout your get-together.  Sliced oranges make really pretty decor, floating on top of the cider in the slow cooker.  To assemble, simply add the cider, spices, and any fresh ingredients to the pot and then cook on low for four hours.  

Treats to Eat

We can’t forget to pair our mulled cider with something delicious to eat.  You might consider something classic like a pound cake, or even something savory like a quiche.  I happen to love pairing my cider with a cookie that has the essence of fall flavors, much like these Soft Honey Pumpkin Cookies.

These delightful little desserts are honey-laced, adorned with pumpkin spice flavor, and filled to the edges with white chocolate. The recipe makes cookies that are fluffy, not crisp. They retain their cake-like quality from the pumpkin, and by replacing most of the sugar with honey. The white chocolate drizzle brings sweetness and texture to the exterior.

Mulled cider is one of the most effortless and festive things to add to your fall soirees.  With your own customizations, you’ll find the perfect fit for your tastebuds.

A cup of mulled cider topped with a fresh orange slice and a cinnamon stick.

Tasha Bigelow

Tasha Bigelow is a native Californian who loves animals, road trips, and quotable quotes. An avid observer of her surroundings, she writes about her thoughts on navigating life on her blog,
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