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Cooking Tips

Crack Your Spices for Superior Mulled Cocktails

To rid your cozy drink of stray spices, try this easy technique.
By Published Nov. 5, 2021

Picture yourself in the warm glow of a kitchen full of loved ones. It's cold outside, but everyone is cradling mugs of the coziest fall beverage: mulled wine. You spoon yourself a second helping and take that first, warming sip . . . only for your mouth to fill with the gritty shrapnel of ground spices that slipped through the sieve and into your glass.

Luckily, we have a simple trick that eliminates the sandy remnants of spices and chalky residue that float to the top of your mulled wines and ciders. All you have to do is crack instead of grind your spices.

If there’s a recipe that best illustrates the easy method of cracking your whole spices, it’s our Brandied Mulled Cider, a classic fall drink that marries the sweet-tart flavor of apple cider with the essential kick of whole cinnamon, cloves, black peppercorns, and coriander seeds.

It’s a two-step process, and it results in a smoother texture and a better beverage. First cracking the spices releases their aromatic oils for the most flavorful infusion, and then toasting them creates a more intense taste.

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How to Crack Your Spices

  1. First, crack the peppercorns and coriander seeds between the underside of a skillet and a cutting board.
  2. Next, toast them (along with whole cloves and a cinnamon stick that’s been broken into pieces) in a large saucepan over medium heat, shaking the saucepan occasionally, until fragrant, 1 to 3 minutes.
America's Test Kitchen's Brandied Mulled Cider
Crack your spices for a smoother mulled cocktail.

Add cider, orange zest, and sugar to the saucepan; bring everything to a simmer; and cook until the flavors meld, about 30 minutes, using a wide, shallow spoon to skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Strain the mixture and then stir in some brandy. You’ll be left with a perfectly smooth cocktail without a stray spice in sight.


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