Synonymous with Christmas, mulled wine has been popular in Europe for centuries. With countless different names dependent on where its consumed (German Glühwein, French Vin Chaud, Italian Vin Brule, Swedish Glogg, etc.) mulled wine is said to have originated in the 2nd century, when Romans began to share their knowledge with the world.
Today, a traditional mulled wine recipe will typically consist of red wine (although mulled white wine is also delicious), plus a selection of mulling spices. Cinnamon, clove, and star anise are arguably the most common mulling spices, but cardamom can also be used to add extra richness, as well as a very feint earthy flavour in harmony with the other spices. I like to add a little fresh ginger too, just to amplify the cosy, wintery flavours.
While plenty of pre-batched mulled wine is available on the market, most bottles will be overly sweet and generally unappetising. Moreover, mulled wine is extremely quick and easy to make at home, giving you complete control over the flavours. Feel free to add more or less spice, or even experiment with your own ingredients. It’s also a great excuse to use up a bottle of red you’re not particularly keen on, as its taste will be slightly masked by the addition of spices, a generous glug of brandy, and a sweetener such as honey or maple syrup – all of which are essentials.
If you intend on buying wine specifically for this mulled wine recipe, using something expensive will be pointless here. Instead, opt for something affordable, ideally full-bodied and fruity and free from heavy tannins or plenty of oak presence. Merlot, Zinfadel, and Grenache are great, generally inexpensive choices.
To make mulled wine, simply add all of the ingredients to a large pan and heat gently to prevent the alcohol content from evaporating and making the liquid too spicy or syrupy. If you do accidentally boil your mulled wine, however, decrease the heat as quickly as possible and continue to simmer over the lowest possible heat. At the worst case, taste the wine and add an additional splash of brandy to restore balance.
- 750 ml red wine
- 60 ml brandy
- 6 cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks or one large stick
- 2 star anise
- 3-4 tbsp honey to taste
- 2 cardamom pods lightly crushed
- 2 cm piece fresh ginger sliced
- 1 orange or clementine quartered
- 1 orange cut into half-moon slices
- Cinnamon sticks optional
- Add all ingredients, other than garnishes, to a large pan and stir to combine.
- Cook on the hob over low heat and slowly bring to a very slight simmer, trying to avoid allowing the mulled wine to bubble too much. As soon as it comes to a low boil, decrease the heat to its lowest possible and simmer gently for at least 30 minutes.
- Taste the mulled wine and add more honey if need be, then strain into a clean pan or jug for serving.
- Serve warm in heatproof glasses or mugs, then garnish with orange slices cut into half-moon slices.
Related: How To Make: Christmas Pudding