Apple cider has all the fun this time of year. We drink it by the pint, we sip it hot and we even eat it as sugary seasonal donuts. But what about its spiced cousin – mulled wine? While the temperature outside drops, it’s time to give this warm, sultry vino its due. We talked with Irem Eren over at Ayza Wine Bar for some pro tips on making our own steaming mug to fight off the cold weather.

First of all, what makes a mulled wine? “The first thing you should know about spiced wine is that it’s served warm,” Erem says. “Some even prefer it hot. That is one of the primary reasons people drink mulled wine in the winter.” And it could be said that sipping on mulled wine does more than just warm up our bellies. There’s a bit more potency in these mugs than a typical glass of vino. “The alcohol has a little bit of a kick,” she says. “The red wine is the base to almost all recipes, varying from traditional table wines to claret to port. To boost the wine, add a spirit, like rum or vodka – which increases the alcohol content.”

Call it glühwein in Germany, glögg in Sweden or (our personal favorite) a Smoking Pope in Victorian England, mulled wine is said to date back as far the first century in ancient Rome. Throughout history, and all around the globe, they’ve all shared a few things in common. “Cinnamon is almost always a given, and tends to be the strongest spice,” Erem says. “Normally, spiced wine is also sweetened with sugar or made using a sweet wine, like port.' To give it a twist — and to make it delicious – Erem suggests adding some clove into the mix. Mulled wine is what you make of it –unlike other cocktails, there’s no real set recipe. It's simply a matter of taste. “One important question if you’re making your own spiced wine is: do you have additional fruit or no fruit?” Erem says. Some enjoy adding a bit of citrus — like oranges, bitter oranges or lemons — while some go the berry route. Some skip the fruit completely says Erem, "Fruit gives it a little tangy taste, something very desirable in the springtime but normally more of a matter of preference in winter.”

The experimentation doesn't end there. Much like with IPAs in the beer department, spices also fall into different camps when it comes to mullin’. (Whole star anise seems to be the subject of much love and hate amongst our friends.) “Spice usage is quite heterogeneous,” Erem says. “Other than cinnamon and cloves, mulled wine can have nutmeg, mace, cardamom, pepper, ginger etc. If you plan to make a mulled wine at home, experiment with the spices and tweak it to your pleasure.”

Want to go try it from the experts? “Spiced wine is always a welcome relief from the cold, and is the cure for both autumn and winter chills,” Eren says. And AYZA's got us covered, the wine bar offers offers a complimentary cup of spiced wine during the autumn and winter at both locations. We might have to bundle up and take her up on that. In the meantime, here’s a basic recipe for the good stuff to try out on your own:

1 bottle of sweet red wine (avoid Merlots, Cabernets or anything on the more acidic end)
¼ - ½ cup of brandy or rum
⅛ - ¼ cup of honey (depending on desired sweetness)
1 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
5 dried allspice berries (crushed)
5 cardamom pods (crushed)
1 orange (sliced)

Heat the mixture in a nonreactive pot (avoid aluminum that will give the wine a metallic taste) over medium heat until it starts to steam. Be careful not to let it boil. Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer on low for ten minutes. (Alternatively put all of the ingredients in the slow-cooker on low for up to three hours for a more heavily spiced mixture that will make the apartment smell amazing.) Enjoy it with a group of cold friends next to a space heater.