It's this time of year that hot beverage classics like pumpkin spiced lates, masala chai, and spiced orange teas are everywhere. It seems we can't get enough of these warm flavors. We also begin to seek something altogether: hotter, spicier, and much merrier.
It's "mulling" season, the time of year when mulled wine and spiced cider are on everyone's minds and on the tips of everyone's tongue. This classic winter beverage goes beyond winter and into history.
The art of mulled beverages varies throughout time and by region. The first traces of spiced wine dates to the Roman empire. It was called Conditum Paradoxum, and if you ask me, that just sounds like magical fun, kind of like a Harry Potter spell. "Conditum Paradoxum!" And I don’t think it's that far off: I would consider mulled wine and mulled drinks very much a potion. A potion that varies from household to household, region to region, and country to country, depending on the spices, wine, or cider that are readily available.
Throughout the early history of hot spiced beverages, it didn't matter what time of year it was—mulled wine was usually on the menu. As it traveled through Rome and spread into Europe, it faded in and out of fashion over time. Eventually, it became known as a winter drink in Europe, being sold at outdoor markets as a warm drink to keep you comfortable while you shopped. This idea then spread into the United States, where it began to be sold on street corners during the cold months. And because the holiday season falls during this time of the year, this classic merriment became known as a festive holiday refreshment.
For mulled wine, it is tradition to use a less-expensive red wine; this is because some say that it is an insult to fine wine to add other flavors to it. Well, when this recipe was created, the fine wines that we have today were not in existence (almost all the wine of old was bad compared to our modern standards). I have had mulled wine made from Two Buck Chuck, and I have had it made from higher-end wines, and both were delicious.
Today, with the convenience of the supermarket, we can spice up our hot beverages to our liking. In general, the basic mulling ingredients call for wine (the most popular choice is red wine); honey or sugar, and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, ginger, and citrus (like oranges or lemons). There is nothing stopping you if you want to add an exotic flair of cardamom, coriander, a couple of cloves, anise, star anise, fennel, apple slices, and/or a splash of whisky.
Basic Mulled Wine
Making a mulled wine is like making a kitchen witchery potion. As you place your ingredients into a large pot, be mindful of what each ingredient represents to you personally and what each ingredient corresponds to in a magical way.
It might go something like this:
Get your family and friends involved in adding the ingredients to the pot and encourage them to also add an intent into the brew.
Bring the pot to a simmer for about 15 minutes. This allows all the spices to mingle into the wine, releasing an aroma into the air, a warm intoxicating scent that becomes almost hypnotic before it even reaches your lips. The general rule on mulling is that the longer you simmer the pot, the stronger and the spicier the flavor and scent of the brew becomes.
It is up to the potion maker to decide if they want to strain out the pieces of spice and fruit or leave it in the pot. If you wish to leave it in the pot to allow for a stronger flavor but do not like floaties, simply place all your spices and fruit into a muslin brewing bag or an extra-large tea infuser. You may have to break up the cinnamon sticks so that they fit.
It is important to remember that alcohol can burn off when cooked at too high a temperature. This is not always a bad thing; it allows for a delicious, warm beverage and can keep the party vibe on low. Alcohol begins to burn out of food and drink at 174 °F. At this temperature, it then takes three hours to burn out completely. Keep an eye on your brew and touch it up as you see fit, with either more wine or a splash of something a little stronger.
As a tea enthusiast, I have found you can make some fantastic mulled teas, too. After all, mulling is really just another type of a tisane.
When making mulled teas there is no need to add alcohol. The mulling flavors enhance the tea, bringing in a delicious and uplifting vibration of their own.
Mulling season is generally about merriment. So, if you want to add the extra cheer and spirits, it is completely up to you. For these next two recipes I would recommend a splash of something rich and with deep flavor, like Grand Marnier, Cognac, or a little brandy. A little goes along way when adding these alcohols to tea.
My favorite tea I like to use is called Lapsang Souchong. This tea is already infused with the element of fire. This is a smoked tea; the leaves are cured and dried in baskets over the smoke of a pine fire, which allows the rich, smoky flavor of the flames and fire to infuse and adhere right onto the tea leaves.
When this base tea of Lapsang Souchong has been gifted the traditional flavors of mulling, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, orange, and honey, it seems to transform into a fall sensation. Warm, sweet, spicy, smoky—magic in a cup. I love this flavor combination because it gives that hint of smoke to the aroma, kind of like an exhilarating walk through a cool and crisp fall morning.
The basic directions are the same as making mulled wine. However, replace the wine with Lapsang Souchong tea. I believe loose leaf tea is best, but bagged tea for this will work just as well.
Smoky Cuppa Magic
In a pan add the tea, all the spices, and the honey. Give a good stir after you have added all the ingredients, which allows the honey to dissolve. Bring this to a simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring only occasionally. When adding your intentions or incantations to this mulled tea, it begs to have the warm spirit of fire honored due to the smoky undertone of flavor. This mulled tea recipe is perfect to serve at a yule celebration in honor of the yule log and fire.
If smoky isn't your thing but you are a fan of orange spiced tea, it's super easy to make your own.
Homemade Spiced Orange Tea
In a pan or crockpot add the water, tea, and all the spices, and then stir in honey. Bring to a simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. This is a vibrant cup of tea that is perfect for any gathering or simply to be enjoyed by yourself.
These brews also seamlessly transition through fall and into winter, bringing warm joy to all celebrations—from pumpkin patches and hayrides to caroling and to wassailing.
In my book Tea Magic, I explain that water is a powerful conductor of energy, vibration, and memory. When speaking intentionally into your brew (be it tea, a mulled beverage, or whatever potion you are consuming), the water in that cup holds on to the vibration of the words, allowing you to digest and imbue those powerful intentions, mantras, and incantations right into your body—making you an active manifestation of your intentions. This, in conjunction with the vibration of health and magic of each specific plant that is in the tea and the spices, gives you a highly elevated drink. It is this elevation that can lead you and your guests to enjoy a higher level of connection, magic, and friendship—all because you have shared a magical cup from the communal pot that has been infused with the vibrations of voice and the essences of plants. So, when you're holding a cup of something in your hand while you are singing, laughing, and enjoying your friends, family, and company, you are in fact literally accepting in and receiving all that vibrational energy into every cell of your body.
In Tea Magic, you will not only learn how to brew the perfect cup of tea, but also about the differences between teas and which herbs and spices correspond with them for magic and healing. You will learn how to use tea in your day-to-day magic, in rituals, spell work, and potions. What a wonderful plant ally tea is! I can't wait to share with you all the ways tea can transform your spiritual practices and elevate this ancient leaf into a magical experience, bringing a twist to the average mundane cup of tea.
Remember as the weather begins to change and you begin to seek out something spicier, remember the classic, the old fashioned, and the traditional cup of mulled "something." Once you have the flavors you like in mind, and you remember how easy it is to brew up, there is nothing to stop you. Don't forget to witch it up and create your own traditions by adding your personal flavors, flair, and magic to the basic recipe. There are no wrong ingredients to use in a mulled drink. If you like the way it tastes, then you did it right.
Jenay Marontate began learning the secrets of kitchen witchery at an early age from her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Now, she applies her knowledge of herbs, oil, magic, and kitchen witchery to her loose-leaf ...