Kitchn Love Letters

I’m a Certified Sommelier and These Are the Only Mulling Spices I Want This Winter

published Nov 27, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Here is the key to my New England heart: Make the room smell like apples, like pine needles, like falling snow. If you want this Certified Sommelier wrapped around your finger, all you have to do is — to quote another famous Bay Stater — kick it up a notch, with spice. When I say “spice,” what I really mean is holiday spice (I’m a sucker for cinnamon, clove, and allspice on a crisp fall morning). 

Now there’s a common misconception that those of us who are serious about wine can’t be equally passionate for libations that convert wine into something else. I happen to disagree. Even the most fervent Bordeaux devotee can find room for mulled wine, where a bottle of Malbec (or Cabernet, or Syrah) happily dances the evening away on the stovetop in a marriage with baking spices. I dare you to feel anything but joy in a room that smells like season’s greetings. It simply isn’t possible.

Credit: Hannah Selinger

Mulled wine, to me, sets a backdrop. My favorite holiday party hack involves a slow cooker, a bottle of inexpensive red wine, and a bouquet lifted from Williams Sonoma (serving warm mugs of steaming wine is the smartest party upgrade, IMO). Made with cinnamon chips, orange rind, whole allspice, whole cloves, cinnamon oil, and orange oil, this bottle, which is sold in sets of one, two, four, six, and 12 (a party it is!), features just the right blend to put me in the mood for a white Christmas. 

In the moments of unrest that swirled around our holiday season last year, I set mulled wine on the stove, more of an atmospheric change than any real palate-cleanser. (Do you drink tea because you love the tea itself, or because you love the mood it fosters?) Although we were a limited bunch, it brought the holidays, with all their attendant cheer, right to my kitchen. This year, I’ll do the same — although a party it will be!

Buy: Williams Sonoma Mulling Spices, $16.96 for 5.75 ounces at Williams Sonoma