Marissa A. Ross Knows Mulled Wine

"It can be fun and festive and not cost you a million dollars."

Great Ones is a celebration of humans we admire — and an exploration of why they cook, not just how. Marissa A. Ross is the author of Wine. All the Time. and the wine editor at Bon Appétit, so if anyone knows how to make mulled wine taste delicious, it’s her. During our Great Jones holiday pop-up in Los Angeles, at the Silver Lake restaurant Sqirl, she taught a crowd how to make her favorite recipe in our Big Deal. You can watch her full tutorial below, and she also explained her unlikely career trajectory and why she prefers drinking to cooking.

I moved out to Los Angeles when I was 22 and I didn’t know how to cook. My dad would comment, “You're never going to get married because you don't know how to cook, and you've got to learn how if you're going to get a man." And I was like, "I'm going to find a man who will cook for me!” And a year later I met Ben, who’s now my husband. He’s a phenomenal cook, so he just showered me with food. I got to say, “Hey, Dad, I can have whatever I want!” And I wanted a man who would cook for me every night.

He does all the cooking, and I do all the wine pairings — and I still get to be a part of the wonderful process in the kitchen. I love the way that wine relates to food.

To be fair, I do the dishes, too. But I love doing the dishes. It’s just a very calming, Zen-like thing for me. I think because I never get to feel finished in my writing, I rarely get to feel like I actually completed something. I can say, "The dishes are done; I did them well; I did them the best."

I came to L.A. with $400 to my name to pursue comedy writing and performing. I would just stay in my room and work. I’d always drink Two-Buck Chuck while doing it, so wine became a part of my comedy writing, and I sort of became known for being this wino, like this cheap-wine lover. Wine became a part of my shtick by accident.

Wine became a part of my shtick by accident.


A friend of mine at HelloGiggles said, "You should review all those shitty wines you're always drinking," and I was like, "Great idea!" And so I started reviewing wines under $10, and the thing that makes comedy funny is that the person performing has to be taking it seriously. So I studied how to taste wine. But just imagine getting drunk by yourself and filming it … and then having to watch it the next day. It was awful.

Instead, I started writing about it, and it snowballed, all while I worked as Mindy Kaling’s assistant. I became obsessed with finding out why those cheap wines all tasted the same. But no one read my blog, except, apparently, Sierra Tishgart (editor’s note: our co-founder). I never expected my wine writing to go anywhere. I just thought it was for me. Sierra wrote about me for New York’s Grub Street, and my life changed forever. The next day after the story went up, a literary agent approached me, and I wrote and submitted and sold my proposal for a book within three months. 

Now I work for Bon Appétit, and I truncated their mulled-wine recipe. Let’s start at the beginning. Mulled wine has a bad rap because it's mostly used to make shitty wine supposedly taste better, but that just doesn't really happen. If you’re not willing to drink something straight, you're probably not going to want to drink it, like, mixed with a bunch of bullshit. Not bullshit — sorry. Spices. And fruit.

Mulled wine has a bad rap because it's mostly used to make shitty wine supposedly taste better.

So it has this stigma of just being not good. For my demo at Sqirl, I used a Serrano that was $13.99. It wasn't crazy expensive, but it wasn't, like I said, $2 grocery-store wine. It can be fun and festive and not cost you a million dollars.

Make sure your bottles are the same variety because you don't want to be mixing with Merlot and Cabernet. No bueno. Get some oranges and some apples — you don't have to peel them or cut them, thank god. Grab cloves and cinnamon — hopefully not powdered cinnamon because, as someone who's made mulled wine with powdered cinnamon before, that's gross. You just stick the cloves into the oranges, and you throw them in a pot with the wine and the apples and the apple cider and some cinnamon sticks. If you have some nutmeg, I hear you can throw that in there, too. And then you put it on the stove, and you let it boil for 20 minutes. Add your port, and that's it. It's a little dump-and-pour recipe.

I’m a child; my first instinct is always to grab the handles of a pot without a pot holder, and so for me, one of the great things about the Great Jones Big Deal was that the handles never got hot! Like, I could handle the handles without hurting myself, and I was actually, really surprised because, by the time we got that mulled wine up to an appropriate temperature, it had been on that hot plate for a while.

I also liked the shape and size of the handles. Everything about them felt natural, and that's something you'll never hear me say, like, outside of washing dishes. You’ll never hear me say, "Oh, it's so natural to grab that pot." But that's literally what just came out of my mouth right now because that's how it felt. It was like, "I want to hold onto this, and now I can.”

Photos by Bradley Meinz.

Marissa's Go-To Designs

Dutch Baby
3.5-Quart Cast-Iron Dutch Oven
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Stir Crazy
3-Piece Nested Mixing Bowl Set
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Little Sheet Duo
Two Nonstick Quarter-Sheet Pans
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