Baby, it’s cold outside! You know what that means! It’s time for mulled wine. That warm, spiced wine that fills your home with the smells of the holidays. Mmmm. There is nothing better!
What is Mulled Wine?
Mulled wine is red wine infused with spices, slowly heated, and consumed around the holidays. This warm beverage is loved around the world and each country has its own name for it like Glühwein (German), Glögg / Gløgg / Glögi (Nordic), Vin Chaud (France), Vin Brulé (Italy), Mulled Wine (British), and on and on. All of them translate to something like “hot wine” or “spiced wine.”
Making Mulled Wine
Deciding on a mulled wine recipe is like deciding on a chili recipe. There are never-ending variations. It just depends on what flavor you’re going for.
The most common ingredients found in mulled wine are a bottle of inexpensive red wine, an orange, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, and cloves. Beyond those ingredients, there are optional takes on this classic holiday drink.
Non-Alcohol Version: You can create a mulled wine with or without alcohol. For the non-alcohol version, use fruit juices like grape juice.
Optional Spices: Use other spices like cardamom, ginger, or vanilla pods.
Optional Spirits: Add brandy, rum, or port to give it a sweet, caramelized flavor.
Sugar: Many recipes call for adding sugar or honey. This decision all depends on whether you are adding the brandy, rum, or port. These are all high in sugar content and the added sugar or honey may not be needed.
You can find ready-made mixed spices to use, but the homemade version is so much better. And make sure to use whole spices because you can easily strain the spices out of the wine before serving. If you prefer to use ground spices, then place them in cheesecloth to soak in the wine. This will help keep the wine from becoming gritty.
The Proper Mulling Technique
It’s important to heat the mixture gently and long enough for the spices to infuse their flavors into the wine. The key to this entire process is to make sure the wine does not boil. This will boil off the alcohol which is an important component.
You can even use a crockpot for the perfect low and slow mulling effect. Figure 2 hours on low before it's ready to serve. Then just keep it on low, while serving and enjoying.
Best Red Wine to Use
Definitely go for an inexpensive Red. Heating wine is going to wreck any nuances that you would find in a bottle of expensive wine. And nuance is not the play we are going for with a mulled wine. So, definitely stick with inexpensive.
I would look for a nice fruity Shiraz or Red Blend. The red wine is going to add the bold fruity flavor and alcohol to this mix. You also want that bold fruitiness to stand up to the other spices that will be added. Any light and easy red like Pinot Noir or Gamay, will just fade away and not give you the fruity balance you want.
Best Way to Serve and Garnish
This wine is hot (obviously) and it’s best served in a ceramic, pottery, or glass mug with a handle. Be careful with the glass and only use those intended for hot liquids. Keep things festive and garnish with some fresh orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and star anise.
Treats to Pair with Mulled Wine
Because mulled wine is sweet, you can pair it easily with holiday cookies and sweet treats. Mulled wine also pairs nicely with cheeses like Blue cheese, Roquefort, and Comté.
If you’d like to follow the traditions of our European brethren, try some of these traditional pairings.
The Swedish pair their Glögg with raisins, blanched almonds, saffron buns, and ginger cookies.
In Germany, Glühwein is paired with stollen, a bread with candied fruit, nuts, and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
The British pair their mulled wine with mince pies which is a sweet fruit-filled pastry.
Mulled Wine Recipes
Here are four mulled wine recipes you can try out. Remember, there are so many versions of this warmed wine, it may take a few tries and tweaks to make it just the way you like.
1. Swedish Glögg Recipe
This Swedish Glögg recipe comes from Katarina Bonde (a true Swede) and co-owner of West Wines in Sonoma Valley, California. She makes and serves her Glögg every holiday season at the winery’s tasting room.
Swedish Glögg Recipe Makes 20-25 Servings (Prepare ahead. Store and serve throughout the holidays.) 2-bottles of full-bodied red wine (try fruity zinfandel or syrah) 1-2 cups of brandy or cognac 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds 5 cinnamon sticks (soak the cinnamon sticks in water beforehand to release the flavor) 20 cloves 2 strips of dried orange rind 1 knob of fresh ginger 1/2 cup raisins 1 cup sugar (brown sugar works best) For garnish: 1 package regular raisins 1 package blanched, slivered almonds Mix all ingredients and let simmer in a pot. Do not let it boil since the alcohol will evaporate and alcohol enhances the flavors from the spices. Let wine and spices cool off and pour into empty bottles or some other vessel that you can close. Let rest overnight and reheat when you want to use it (remember not to boil it). The glogg can be saved and used throughout the holiday season. Serve in small cups and garnish with some raisins and almond slivers per cup. Make sure you also have teaspoons so the guests can get the soaked raisins out when they have finished the cup. They are great!
2. German Glühwein Recipe
German Glühwein is the next recipe. If you’ve visited any of the German Christmas markets that pop up around the holidays, you’ve likely tried some of their Glühwein while browsing the outdoor shops. This is a traditional Glühwein recipe from thekitchn.com.
German Glühwein Recipe Serves 4 to 6 1/2 medium orange 3/4 cup water 1/4 cup turbinado or granulated sugar 20 whole cloves 2 cinnamon sticks 2 whole star anise 1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry red wine Rum or amaretto, for serving (optional) 1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the orange in wide strips, taking care to avoid the white pith; set aside. Juice the orange and set the juice aside. 2. Combine the water and sugar in a large, nonreactive saucepan and boil until the sugar has completely dissolved. Reduce the heat and add the cloves, cinnamon, star anise, orange zest, and orange juice. Simmer until a fragrant syrup forms, about 1 minute. 3. Reduce the heat further and add the wine. Let it barely simmer for at least 20 minutes but up to a few hours. Keep an eye out so that it doesn’t reach a full simmer. 4. Strain and serve in small mugs, adding a shot of rum or amaretto and garnishing with the orange peel and star anise if desired.
3. Mulled Wine Recipe
This Mulled Wine Recipe comes from British chef Jamie Oliver. In this recipe, he uses the spices to create a syrup before adding the wine to finish off the recipe.
Mulled Wine Recipe Serves 10 2 clementines 1 lemon 1 lime 1 cup caster sugar (superfine sugar) 6 whole cloves 1 cinnamon stick 3 fresh bay leaves 1 whole nutmeg, for grating 1 vanilla pod 2 bottles Chianti or other Italian red wine 2 star anise 1. Peel large sections of peel from the clementines, lemon, and lime using a speed-peeler. 2. Put the sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the pieces of peel and squeeze in the clementine juice. 3. Add the cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and about 10 to 12 gratings of nutmeg. Halve the vanilla pod lengthways and add to the pan, then stir in just enough red wine to cover the sugar. 4. Let this simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved into the red wine, then bring to the boil. Keep on a rolling boil for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until you’ve got a beautiful thick syrup. The reason I’m doing this first is to create a wonderful flavor base by really getting the sugar and spices to infuse and blend well with the wine. It’s important to make a syrup base first because it needs to be quite hot, and if you do this with both bottles of wine in there you’ll burn off the alcohol. 5. When your syrup is ready, turn the heat down to low and add your star anise and the rest of the wine. Gently heat the wine and after around 5 minutes, when it’s warm and delicious, ladle it into heatproof glasses and serve.
4. Latvian Karstvins
I'm adding this one for my Latvian friends. It comes from the Dan Sukker website. This was a tough recipe to find and basically came from a Latvian sugar company (as you'll notice by the ingredients).
However, the unique part of Karstvins is their use of grape or currant juice along with Riga Black Balsam in place of the red wine. Fair warning, if you've never had Riga Black Balsam, it's an acquired taste and then some. This is why my Latvian friend, gave us a bottle of the vile stuff as a joke. (Between you and me, I'd stick with the recipe below.)
1 bottle of dry red wine
5 cm piece of fresh ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange peel and juice
90 g Dansukker white sugar
70 g Dansukker clear syrup
Heat the wine with ginger, cinnamon, cloves, orange peel, and orange juice over low heat. Allow to infuse for 20 minutes. Add sugar and syrup. heat again until the sugar dissolves. Serve hot.
Share Your Mulled Wine Experience
If you try some of these mulled wine recipes, I’d love to hear about it. Post a comment to let us know what you liked and what you tweaked to make the recipe perfectly yours! Stay warm and enjoy the holidays with some delicious mulled wine!