Depending on the variation, a mulling spice blend can contain any or all of the following spices. Mix and match them to create your very own custom blend that’s perfect in everything from spiced wine, to buttercream, coffee cake, and more.
See how we’re baking with mulling spices in our November/December 2019 issue!
Cinnamon: Cinnamon is the dried inner bark of a cinnamon tree. Once cut from the tree, it’ll curl up as it dries, forming its signature coiled stick shape. A popular spice since the time of ancient Egypt, cinnamon is often featured in mulling spice recipes and is one of the predominate flavors.
Nutmeg: The seed of a Myristica fragrans, nutmeg was not as commonly used in medieval recipes for mulled wine because of its rarity and steep price. Once it became readily available in the 19th century, many home cooks gladly added it into the mix.
Clove: An extremely pungent spice, clove is the dried, undeveloped flower bud of a tree in the myrtle family. Because clove has such strong aromatic oils and compounds—its concentrated oil is often used in numbing mouthwash—it should be added in conservative doses to spice mixes.
Allspice: So called because it contains the aromatic qualities of several spices (clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg) in one, allspice is the dried whole berry of Pimenta dioica, a canopy tree found in the Caribbean and Central America. It packs a powerful punch and should be used sparingly.
Star anise: Bringing the much-desired note of licorice to the mulling spice mix, the multipointed star anise is the pericarp of the fruit of the Illicium verum tree found in China and Vietnam. An essential ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder, star anise can be simmered whole in a poaching liquid or ground into a powder.
Peppercorns: Though you may consider peppercorns a strictly savory spice, black pepper has had a long history as the hot counterpart to many sweet-smelling spice mixes. Freshly ground or popped whole into a mulling mix, peppercorns will add warmth without competing with the stronger spices.
Cardamom: One of the most common ingredients found in mulling spice mixes, cardamom has often been dubbed “the queen of spices,” and for good reason. An essential ingredient to chai spice mixes, cardamom can be simmered in liquid whole or added to spice mixes as ground seeds.
Ginger: Original recipes for mulling spice mixes featured many relatives of ginger, from grains of paradise to galangal. Today, fresh ginger is more commonly used in the cooking of mulling spices (it will mellow and sweeten once heated), while ground ginger is used in the powdered blends. Keep in mind that ground ginger is more pungent than fresh.
Citrus: As essential to the mulling mix as any spice, citrus, particularly orange or lemon, brings a note of contrary tartness and acidity to the sweetened wine and aromatic spices, cutting through all the rich flavors for a bright, balanced finish.