How to Use Mulling Spices for Cider and Tea

Your house will smell gorgeous and your heart will be warmed when you simmer these spices in your favorite hot winter beverage.

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Posted in , Dec 2, 2021

Mulled cider and Christmas cookies

“Mulled” is a warming, comforting word that brings to mind steaming mugs of flavorfully brewed drinks sipped by a cozy fire on a dark winter evening. 

But with the myriad “mulling spices” on supermarket shelves, how to choose? For that matter, maybe you could put together your own mulling spices to add a personal touch to winter coziness.

Mulling spices have some things in common. They’re warming, deeply flavorful, aromatic and deliciously pair-able with each other. Here are the most common spices you’ll see in a mulling mixture:

--Cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
--Star anise
--Whole nutmeg, broken into pieces
--Whole cloves
--Allspice berries

In addition to these classic spices, other flavors can enrich your mulled mixture, such as:

--Dried orange or lemon peel
--Crystallized ginger pieces

To make a mulled beverage, simply set a saucepan over low heat and pour in your choice of base. While many enjoy mulled wine, mulling spices also elevate apple cider into a deliciously warming drink and spices steeped in hot water make a flavorful, comforting tea.

Gather a small handful of your spices together to prepare them for their warm bath. I use loose-leaf tea bags (I like the “T-Sac” brand, which can be composted along with the spices when you’ve finished using them), though you can also use cheesecloth. Add the spices to the bag or cloth, and either twist the top of the bag tightly shut, or use kitchen twine to tie the cheesecloth closed. 

There’s no need to shop for special equipment, though. You could simply float your spices in the liquid, using a strainer to remove them when you’re ready to drink, or you could pour your beverage through a fine sieve. 

You can simmer mulling spices for a long time, though after 20 or 30 minutes your cider or tea will be infused with a deep flavor and scent. Sometimes I fill a slow cooker with apple cider and leave it on a warm setting all day. This comes in particularly handy if you are hosting people outdoors on a chilly afternoon. If you’re inside, it also fills your home with a profoundly comforting aroma, similar to a stovetop simmer.

What is your favorite way to use mulling spices?

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