Mulling It Over


Nothing says winter wonderland as warmly as an aromatic mug of spiced comfort.

When opening il Giallo Osteria & Bar in Atlanta in November, and considering what to pour for customers, chef/owner Jamie Adams recalled an experience he had in Italy years ago.

“When I was living there, I took a little ski trip one winter and was up in the mountains north of Milan,” says Adams, co-owner—along with Leonardo Moura—of Atlanta’s Buckhead Life Restaurant Group. “There, it’s kind of rustic. On the slopes there would be a couple of little places serving beverages. This one place was a log cabin, and they were cooking sausages on the stove. You’d get those on the plate—served with mulled wine.”

His version of Vin Brulé appears on the new restaurant’s beverage menu for $9, served in a mug. Sangiovese wine is simmered on the stovetop with brown sugar, apple peel, an orange and a lemon (both peeled), cloves, a cinnamon stick, and ground nutmeg, then strained, torched, and served.

“It doesn’t need a big, important wine, but something along the lines of Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon,” Adams says. “It doesn’t need to be an old wine, but it’s got to be a decent wine.” On the menu, and during table service, the tale of how he came to love this drink is delivered loud and clear. After all, “a story is what sells things,” Adams says.

Mulled to Order

And the story of the season is that, across the U.S., mixologists and wine directors are coping with frigid winter temperatures by creating mulled wines and ciders. For Shinya Yamao, the head bartender at Piora in New York City’s West Village, his Japanese culture shines through, as a nice match with the restaurant’s modern American cuisine. A mulled red wine—with cloves, cinnamon, star anise, honey, and Japanese fine cane sugar—is always made to order and fits seamlessly into his Japanese-style cocktail program. It’s on the menu every winter.

“Instead of the batched version of mulled wine most places do,” says Yamao, “I wanted to make really good mulled wine to order. I make my own spice mixture with cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms, and star anise. I also add honey liqueur, and ginger liqueur, which give the drink a bit of sweetness and a ginger flavor without overpowering the other ingredients.”

“People love it. During New York’s cold winters, many guests walk straight up to the bar—even before reading the menu—and ask if we have mulled wine to warm them up,” he says.

But it’s not just the cold climates that are turning to mulled wines and ciders for the winter months. At the Grant Grill Lounge, tucked into The U.S. Grant (a hotel in San Diego), head mixologist, sommelier, and certified cicerone Jeff Josenhans developed two mulled wines just before the Thanksgiving holiday. Mulled Riesling “has dried lemon peel, coriander seed, and whole white peppercorns, and we sweeten that up with sugar, honey, and cardamom. We tend to use Spätlese (late-harvest) Riesling and an Alsatian-style brandy to spike the mulled Riesling.” Mulled Syrah is also on the menu. Josenhans likes to use a French Syrah and blend with cloves, orange peel, cinnamon, allspice, black peppercorns, brown sugar, and Cognac.


Add new comment