When there’s a chill in the air, the idea of chugging a highball cocktail packed with ice loses most of its appeal. While you could sip on a glass of something straight-up, wintery weather calls for a cozier drink. Enter: mulled wine. Just sweet enough with warming spices and a hint of citrus, that first sip of mulled wine is like putting on a pair of those sweatpants that are super-soft on the inside. You just instantly feel more at peace. Contrary to popular belief, mulled wine can be made with red or white wine. Mull both red and white wine with cracked whole spices and add a hit of liquor at the end if you want the drink to help you get extra-warm.
For red mulled wine: Pour 2 cups apple cider and 1 cup fresh orange juice into large saucepan along with ¼ cup honey, 2 cinnamon sticks, 5 black peppercorns, 4 star anise pods, 3 whole cloves, and the zest of one orange (peeled off in strips). Give the pot a good whisk, then bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and dump in 1 bottle of a sweet red wine. Let the wine warm for 10 minutes, then take the pot off the heat and let the flavors meld. If you’d like, stir in ¼ cup brandy at this point as well.
For white mulled wine: Dissolve 2 teaspoons ground ginger, ½ teaspoon ground cardamom, and ¼ cup granulated sugar in 1 cup warm water and 1 cup white grape juice and 1/2 cup grapefruit juice in a large saucepan. Add 4 star anise pods, 5 allspice berries, and the zest of one orange (peeled off in strips). Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Pour in 1 bottle of a medium-bodied white wine and let warm for 10 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and let the flavors meld, whisking in ¼ cup elderberry liqueur (like St-Germain) if you’d like.
When you’re ready to serve, reheat the mulled wine over medium low heat until just beginning to simmer. Scoop up servings into mugs or heatproof glasses, trying to avoid the spices and orange peel. Garnish the glasses with fresh slices of orange or lemon. Keep the heat on very low to make sure the drink stays warm throughout the evening.