Spiced Mulled Wine
Mulled wine is a must-have drink for the holidays – spicy, warm, perfect for parties, and super easy to make, especially if you use a slow cooker! This one is simmered with ginger and brandy for a little extra oomph.
Photography Credit:Nancy Mitchell
Mulled wine is one of my favorite things about winter. No matter how cold or dreary it is outside, a cup of hot spiced wine is guaranteed to warm your body and your spirit.
It’s also super easy to make, and you can even make it ahead for a party; just put all the ingredients in a pot and start warming them a few minutes before guests arrive. (Bonus: It will make your house smell amazing.)
Want an even more hands-off approach? You can also make mulled wine in a slow cooker!
THE HISTORY OF MULLED WINE
Humans have been drinking heated, spiced wine for a long time, at least since Roman times. (According to Vinepair, the Greeks did it, too.) This persisted throughout the Middle Ages, because, as you may learn when you make it, heating and adding spices to wine is a great way to make not-great wine taste really good.
Hot spiced wine is a holiday tradition throughout the world. In Germany it’s known as Glühwein, and in the Nordic countries as Glögg.
WHAT KIND OF WINE IS BEST FOR MULLED WINE?
An inexpensive big, rich red – like a Cabernet or a Malbec – is a good choice for mulled wine.
This is definitely NOT the time to pull out a really nice wine; in fact, I usually make mulled wine with the lowest priced bottle I can find because the spices and the orange mask the nuances of a more expensive wine. You can even use the Charles Shaw brand of wine from Trader Joe’s (colloquially known as Two-Buck Chuck) or boxed wine for this; just make note of how many bottles are in the box and adjust proportions accordingly.
WHAT SPICES ARE BEST FOR MULLED WINE?
I like cinnamon and clove for their warmth and flavor, and ginger adds a little zip. (Try it, if you don’t believe me.) This mulled wine is sharp and spicy, enough to warm you up, wake you up, and then relax you again.
ADDING BRANDY OR LIQUEURS TO MULLED WINE
Brandy, a spirit made from distilled wine, adds extra oomph to mulled wine, which is why I include it here. However, you could add a little Applejack, pear brandy, or pear liqueur instead. (Apples and pears play very nicely with spices, and also with wine.)
MORE WINTER DRINKS TO ENJOY:
- Honey Mulled Wine
- Hot Mulled Cider
- Traditional Eggnog
- Coquito (Puerto Rican Coconut Eggnog)
- Orange and Vanilla Hot Buttered Rum
Spiced Mulled Wine Recipe
The key to mulled wine is to warm the wine without boiling it, which would cook off the alcohol. When your kitchen smells so achingly good that you're dying to try a cup of this masterpiece, you'll know it's done.
- 1 orange
- 15 whole cloves
- 1 bottle red wine (inexpensive Cabernet or Malbec)
- 1/4 cup sugar (turbinado is nice)
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/4 cup brandy
- Large pot or slow cooker
1 Stud the cloves into the orange, then cut the orange: Push the cloves into the orange (see this picture for reference), then cut the orange into half circles. (Studding the cloves into the orange means you won't have to worry about floating cloves in your drink.)
Alternatively, cut the orange into half circles and add it and the cloves to the wine separately.
2 Add ingredients to the pot: Add all the ingredients to a pot or a slow cooker.
3 Heat the wine: On the stovetop, simmer the wine for 20–25 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to mix ingredients and dissolve sugar. If you're using a slow cooker, heat the wine on low heat for 1 1/2 hours or on high for 45 minutes, until warm.
When the mulled wine smells amazing, tastes spicy, and is hot (but not boiling), it's done. Serve and enjoy!
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This mulled wine recipe is the perfect thing to sip during your virtual ugly Christmas sweater party. It&rsquos so retro and delicious! A classic mulled wine is a staple of holiday parties in cold climates, but the result can often be sticky sweet. Thanks to a hearty dose of black peppercorns and spicy fresh ginger, this mulled wine recipe delivers a balanced and unique cocktail. Shopping tip: if you can&rsquot find red Zinfandel, Merlot or Cabernet will work well, too. The key is to find a full-bodied wine so that the flavor can compete with the sugar, spices, and orange.
What is Glühwein?
Glühwein is mulled – or spiced – wine, traditionally served up at Christmas markets in Germany.
To make Glühwein, red wine is simmered with warm winter spices like cinnamon and cloves, sweetened with sugar, and balanced with a bit of citrus.
There are many names and variations served at Christmas markets all across Europe. Glogg, wassail, mulled wine, hot wine … or, of course, Glühwein – which literally translates to “glow wine.” Makes sense to me! (Where I learned that and more about the history of Glühwein can be found here.)
In our house back here in the U.S., we call it Glühwein because the first time we tried mulled wine, it was a Glühwein. And … it was in a German theme town in our state, right here in the U.S. (Hangs head in shame.)
I know, I know. I wish we had an incredible story about a decades-ago wintertime stroll at an actual European Christmas Market. And that’s definitely a post-pandemic life goal.
Instead, our mulled-wine story took place several years ago on a frosty evening as we strolled the shops of Leavenworth, Washington. We ducked into a wine tasting shop and came out with our mittens wrapped around a warm mug of steaming, intoxicating goodness that warmed us from our noses to our toes.
And we’ve been recreating and refining our own Glühwein recipe back at home ever since. We love it, our guests love it, and I hope you don’t mind me sharing our recipe with you even though our experience – and recipe – might not be the most authentic you’ll find.
Spiced Mulled Wine Ingredients
The ingredients are simple. Let’s talk about them:
I’d pick a wine that is middle-of-the-road in terms of price. Say, around $10. A good Cabernet Sauvignon or a Syrah will do just fine. Don’t get anything too sweet. Allow the sweetness to come from the other ingredients. The drier the wine, the better. You may also love this White Wine Infused Carrot-Ginger Soup for a quick meal on chilly days.
Ah, what can I say about the spices? These are the stars of the show. Cloves, cardamom, star anise and cinnamon stick combine to create this headily spicy aroma that’s the most wonderful feature of this drink. Use fresh, whole spices for that wonderful taste and flavor. Pre-packaged powdered or crushed spices will quickly lose their fragrance. You can use these spices to brew your own Probiotic Kombucha.
My mom used to give me half a teaspoon of brandy growing up to ward off coughs and colds. Not sure how effective it was. For this recipe, you don’t need too much of it, and you can read up my review of Meera Shashidhara’s book review on how people over the age of 100 enjoyed a glass of brandy once in a while to keep fit.
There are many varieties of apple cider. Get the best and freshest that money can buy. Don’t skimp on this one. This is a vital ingredient in the mulled wine. Most grocery stores stock apple cider during fall and winter months. Read the ingredients label to make sure it is not doused in sugar or preservatives. You can also make apple cider at home.
Repeat, don’t get cheap store-bought honey. Get the raw, unfiltered, local version. Read about the healing benefits of honey in this blog.
Get a juicy one – both for zesting and for extracting the juice. Organic is better since you are using the zest.
There are several wonderful appetizers that you can serve with this mulled wine. A few for you to try out:
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Mulled Wine (Wassail Recipe)
Mulled wine, also known as wassail, is a hot holiday punch meant to warm the belly and spirit at the same time.
It’s rich and dark with layer upon layer of festive flavor, starting with red wine, apple cider, orange juice, fresh fruit, and aromatic spices.
I like to add a vanilla bean to my wassail recipe because I feel it mellows the wine, helping it to blend seamlessly with the spices.
When making mulled wine you can pour all the ingredients for the wassail recipe in a large slow cooker and let it simmer and fill the house with a tantalizing aroma for hours. Or you can make it quickly on the stovetop. I’ve included both methods in today’s recipe.
Cooking the wine does eliminate some of the alcohol, but not all, making it a nice light boozy beverage for the grownups at your holiday gatherings.
You want to make sure that your spices aren’t just floating in your mulled wine, or it won’t be pleasant to drink. A cheese cloth works best to make sure this doesn’t happen. You put all the spices in the cloth, and then tie it up and let it sit in the wine. It helps infuse the flavor and you don’t bite down on a peppercorn. This mulled wine recipe uses citrus as well. You dry the oranges out in the oven, and they help give the wine a great citrus scent.
Hot mulled cider is open to your interpretation here are juices, spices, and spirits to get you started.
10 cups apple cider (See Notes)
½ cup lemon juice (about 2 or 3 lemons)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
10-12 cloves or 1 teaspoon ground
4 cinnamon sticks, plus more for garnish, if desired (See Notes)
8-16 ounces brandy, rum, cognac or other spirit (See Notes)
apple, orange, or lemon slices, for garnish
- In a medium pot over medium heat, add the apple cider, lemon juice, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon sticks (but not the spirit). Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add the desired amount of spirit into each mug, then ladle in a serving of the warm spiced cider mixture and stir. Alternately, add the spirit to the pot and stir then ladle the complete mixture into mugs. Garnish each serving with apple, orange, or lemon slice and cinnamon stick, as desired.
• It’s best to make sure to use apple cider, which is made from unfiltered apple juice and has a deeper and more complex flavor than regular apple juice.
• As a variation, substitute 2 cups orange juice (about 6 oranges if squeezing your own) for 2 cups of the apple cider.
• If you don’t have cinnamon sticks, you can substitute each 2-inch cinnamon stick with ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon. After mixing, taste to see if you want more cinnamon flavor. Ground cinnamon has a stronger flavor than cinnamon sticks, so don’t add too much at once.
• New Prairie Organic Sustainable Seasons Apple, Pear & Ginger Vodka could make a tasty option for the spirit.
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Make Your Own Berry Syrup
So you don&rsquot find squash/cordial/saft, but still want to try this recipe. Make your own berry syrup! This is especially important if you want to make this mulled wine recipe non-alcoholic. It will bring that bright red color and fresh sweet flavor from the berries.
Simply add any kind of dark or red berry, like red currant, blackcurrant, blackberries or raspberries to a saucepan. A combination of these is also fine.
Combine the berries with about equal amount of sugar (by weight). Stir with a wooden spoon to break up the berries. Let it simmer for 15 minutes. Sometimes we need to add a splash of water to help get the boiling process starting.
I realize berries are more of a Summer thing, and mulled wine is a Winter thing. But in Norway we usually make blackcurrant cordial in the Summer, which keeps for an approximate eternity, and this is a way to get your berries in during the dark Winter months too.
However, I&rsquove also used store bought blackcurrant syrup/cordial for this recipe. Hope all this helps! Scroll down to find the printable mulled wine recipe.
35 Best Mulled Wines to Get You Through the Colder Months
If you're hosting the annual Thanksgiving feast this year, you're going to need a festive cocktail (or two!) to get your guests in the Turkey Day spirit. These mulled wine recipes will warm you right up during the colder months and alleviate some of that stress brought on by the holiday season. Of course, you should enjoy these cozy beverages any day during the fall or winter, not just during the hectic times! All of the recipes all differ in some way, but majority of them are based on the German version of mulled wine, which is called Glühwein. (Fun fact: Glühwein literally translates to "glow wine).
But there are also other regional varieties on this roundup, including Swedish mulled wine and Brazilian mulled wine. Along with the traditional mulled wine recipes, you'll love the upgraded versions too, such as the mulled wine margaritas, mulled apple cider sangria, or the mulled wine tea. We've also featured a handful of mulled wines that can be prepared with different cooking methods, wether you prefer to make you drink on your stovetop, in your slow cooker, or in your Instant Pot. It doesn't matter if you like red wine or white wine&mdashthere are recipes for both on this list, so there's a sip everyone can enjoy.