Do you have a favorite holiday beverage? One of our favorites is definitely mulled wine. It always sounds like the perfect hot drink for a chilly winter night, especially so around the holidays. A simple blend of wine, a little brandy ;-), citrus, and spices that provide a burst of flavor in every sip. Cinnamon, star anise, cloves, cardamom, and a dash of honey will certainly do the trick.
To add the distinct flavor of mulled wine, we like to use whole spices – whole cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, cardamom pods, and whole star anise. For one, because we can easily remove them before drinking, but also because we know exactly what they are and don’t have to worry about any fillers, or risk other substances hiding in our spices…
Unfortunately, food fraud does exist and pre-ground spices run a higher risk of being adulterated. This is particularly true with spices like black pepper, turmeric powder, red chili powder, saffron, cumin, and cinnamon. Common adulterants include sand, dirt, chalk powder, bark, sawdust, other seeds/berries, and the list goes on…
For the producer, mixing in cheap ingredients is one way to increase profit margins. Spices are expensive after all! Now that’s not to say that ALL pre-ground spices are adulterated.
Many spices come exactly as advertised, but the risk of buying adulterated spices exists regardless, especially for pre-ground spices. It’s much more difficult to add filler into whole spices than it is for pre-ground spices, which can be mixed in quite easily.
Mitigating the risks
If you don’t want to have to worry about whether or not the spice you just bought has been adulterated, then start buying whole spices! We’ve started buying whole spices and grinding them ourselves at home with our inexpensive coffee grinder. Just be sure to wash out those lingering coffee grounds first!
Cumin seeds for example, are so much more flavorful and aromatic than pre-ground cumin. This is partly because whole spices stay fresher for longer when compared to pre-ground spices. And also due to the fact that whole spices retain their valuable oils, which can be lost in pre-ground spices during processing.
Cinnamon is another great example of a spice we always buy whole. First off, cinnamon sticks are the preferred way to fully infuse your mulled wine with wonderful cinnamon flavors, rather than an underwhelming quick sprinkle on top.
And second, cinnamon sticks are easily ground with the same simple coffee/spice grinder we mentioned earlier! I think our electric grinder only cost like $15-20!?
Historically we’ve used it for grinding coffee beans, but this invaluable ally also lets us grind our own spices at home. Grinding your own ingredients is one of the best ways to know exactly what you’re getting!
So grab those whole spices and a bottle of red wine! Let’s dive in and make a delicious mulled wine mixture to kick back and enjoy a relaxing evening.
“Variety’s the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor.” – William CowperPrint
Homemade mulled wine is super easy and perfect for holiday entertaining or a warm cozy beverage to relax after a long day. Customize it with your favorite spices like whole cinnamon, cloves and star anise!
- 1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine (I like to use cabernet sauvignon)
- 2 cinnamon sticks (I recommend using Ceylon cinnamon)
- 2 star anise pods
- 6-8 whole cloves
- 2 cardamom pods (optional)
- 1-2 oranges, sliced
- 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup (optional, depending on desired sweetness)
- 2 ounces brandy or tawny port (optional)
- Combine all ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a slight simmer. Reduce heat and let simmer lightly at least 15 minutes, or up to 3 hours. But don’t let the mixture boil, or the alcohol will boil off.
- Strain and serve warm. Garnish with an orange slice and any other desired garnishes.
MAKE VEGAN: Use maple syrup or agave instead of honey.
What are your favorites spices? Do you buy them pre-ground or whole? Let us know in the comments! Also learn all about some health benefits of cinnamon by checking out our Cinnamon Spiced Applesauce recipe.