Back in college, I spent a semester in the gorgeous French town of Grenoble, nestled in the foothills of the Alps.
When I recall that time, it’s hard to forget the pervasive holiday spirit that dominated the town; that’s because, although the French don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, they take the Christmas holidays very, very seriously. The town center glows from the Marchée de Noel, tiny artisan booths take up residence among the cobblestones, and on every corner there seems to be a carted vendor sitting next to pots of steaming vin chaud: dark purple, spicy, served piping hot out of tiny plastic cups.
When I returned to the States, I bought a tin of mulling spices from Trader Joe’s – it lasted me years. But when it ran out, I realized that I could do better. Nothing says winter like walking in out of the cold to a warm house scented with the pungent spices from a big pot of fragrant, simmering mulled wine on the stove. Assembling these little bags is not only incredibly simple, but also makes for a cute, quick gift – for holiday hostesses and office mates alike.
*Note: the traditional vin chaud is not sweet, calling only for a little sugar, cinnamon, and lemon. I’ve added on here, but feel free to experiment – variations are endless!
1) Assemble the spices:
(Equal parts cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, sugar, cardamom pods, allspice berries, orange or lemon peel, or whatever else is on hand)
2) Smash the cinnamon sticks
A good old frying pan to the counter should do the trick.
3) Distribute the mixture into sachets (about 2 Tbsp per baggie).
Tie with kitchen cord or ribbon (but remind people to take the ribbon off before simmering!).
4) If you’re feelin’ fancy, decorate with gift tags.
Enjoy handing them out to friends, the mailman, that coworker you don’t really know all that well.
Make enough sachets to keep on hand when someone drops by, and simply throw it in a pot of gently simmering wine or cider. I love gifts that lie at the intersection of thoughtful and purposeful, and the added bonus that this is a cheap (and fast!) project doesn’t hurt, either.
Happy New Year! Happy Winter!
Catherine lives in Jackson, Wyoming, where she has worked with teenagers in the juvenile court system for the last four and a half years. She’s never had a brainfreeze. She can be found at catdisanto.vsco.co and @c_disanto on Instagram.