Whether you’re hosting a Christmas party or want a hot beverage to indulge in while you watch the snowfall through your window, mulled wine is a delicious and festive drink to enjoy during the winter or holiday season. Conquer the cold weather by curling up on the couch with a steaming cup of this delectable treat!
If you’re not very familiar with mulled wine, not to worry — we have everything you need to know right here. In this detailed guide to mulled wines, you’ll learn a brief history of the beverage, common wines and ingredients used to make it, how to heat mulled wine and some fantastic recipes to try on your own. Let’s dive in!
What Is Mulled Wine?
“Mulling” refers to heating, sweetening and flavoring a beverage with various spices. Also called spiced wine, mulled wine is typically made by steeping red wine with mulling spices like cloves, cinnamon, anise, nutmeg or allspice. Ingredients like raisins and citrus fruits can also be added to elevate the flavor. The beverage is then served warm or hot.
Mulled wine can be traced all the way back to the 2nd century in ancient Greece. The beverage was originally developed as a way to prevent waste. Ancient Romans would mix excess spices, herbs and fruits with wine to use up these ingredients while making the drink more palatable. During the Victorian era, author Charles Dickens also mentioned mulled wine in his 1843 classic, “A Christmas Carol.”
Today, mulled wine is a staple Christmas and wintertime beverage. Most mulled wine is alcoholic, but you can also find non-alcoholic versions of the drink. And while it’s most common to mull red wine, you can use white wine if preferred.
The drink’s name can also vary depending on where you’re sipping it. For instance, it’s known as “glögg” in Sweden, “glühwein” in Germany and “vin chaud” in France. Mulled wine is commonly served at Christmas markets in Europe.
What Does Mulled Wine Taste Like?
Because spiced wine often contains similar notes to those of regular wine, it’s not too difficult to imagine the flavor if you haven’t had mulled wine before. However, the cocktail can have more defined tart, fruity, sweet or smoky notes depending on the spices you add.
For instance, you might throw in some fennel seeds for a sweet licorice flavor or a pinch of pepper for a little more kick. A few lemon slices or squeezes of lemon juice can add some extra tartness to your beverage. Whatever spices you choose, the hot temperature and added ingredients help bring out warmer, more robust flavors.
What Is the Best Wine for Mulled Wine?
If you’re wondering what wines to use to make mulled wine, below are some of the best varieties to consider.
Malbec wine typically boasts flavors of dark cherry, smoke-tinged blackberry and cocoa. It has a velvety texture, medium-to-full body and ample acidity. On top of these characteristics, its earthy undertones will blend beautifully with your mulled wine creation.
As a bonus, Malbec’s lovely dark purple hue will undoubtedly make for an aesthetically pleasing concoction. There’s also no shortage of Malbec on the market, making it easy to snag a bottle for your mulled wine.
Zinfandel wine is a plush, silky varietal bursting with ripe red berry flavors. Its hefty body can withstand the mulling spices without getting lost in the mix. Cherry and strawberry are common notes you might find with Zinfandel, which will add a lovely touch of sweetness to your mulled wine cocktail.
Merlot wine is known for its delicious notes of baking spices and fresh cherry, both of which can complement your mulling spices wonderfully. Merlot is a versatile grape used for oaky and fruity wines alike, accommodating a range of taste palates.
With a quality Merlot, you can expect a good balance of moderate acidity and tannins and relatively high alcohol content. This makes it easy to blend a Merlot wine with your favorite fruits and spices.
4. Cabernet Sauvignon
While you should try to avoid overly tannic and heavily bodied wines for mulled wine — so as not to diminish the flavors of your spices — Cabernet Sauvignon can be a great choice if you’d prefer a more expressive mulled wine.
Bursting with big, bold notes of dark berry, black pepper, cassis, wood and vanilla, Cabernet Sauvignon is sure to make a statement for your mulled wine.
Finally, Syrah wine is spicy and full-bodied with notes of plum, blackberry and black pepper. Like Cabernet Sauvignon, there’s no doubt that Syrah will make a bold statement for your beverage if you want something a little stronger.
Traditional Mulled Wine Ingredients
Now that we’ve covered some of the best wines for mulled wine, let’s move on to the remaining ingredients.
1. Spices and Herbs
As we discussed earlier, adding various herbs and spices to your mulled wine enhances the beverage by bringing out warmer, more nuanced flavors. While you can use any ingredients based on personal taste preferences, some common spices and herbs for mulled wine include:
- Star anise
- Vanilla pod
Cranberries, lemons and oranges are popular picks for mulled wine, adding a citrusy and festive tang to your beverage. You can also use other winter fruits for variation, like pears, apples, mandarins, pomegranates and grapefruit.
3. Sugar or Sweetener
Classic white sugar will work fine with just about any recipe, but other sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and brown sugar are popular additions to mulled wine as well.
In addition to your base wine selection, a spirit like bourbon, brandy or aged port wine adds an exciting kick to your mulled wine, keeping your holiday spirit up high.
Mulled wine doesn’t have to include garnishes, but they make your beverage all the more fun to sip! Here are some creative and delicious ways to garnish your mulled wine:
- Drop in a cinnamon stick.
- Add an orange slice or some orange peel.
- Drop in whole spices, such as star anise.
- Drop in a few brightly colored berries, like cherries, raisins or cranberries.
- Sprinkle in a few nuts, like almonds or Brazil nuts.
Garnishes are mostly for decorative purposes, but they make for a more aesthetically pleasing beverage. If you’re throwing a holiday party, there’s a good chance this picture-perfect treat will have guests swooning and returning for another glass!
5 Crowd-Pleasing Mulled Wine Recipes
Learn how to make mulled wine with this fun list of recipes. With so many types of mulled wine to try, it can be hard to decide which one to make first!
1. Classic Mulled Wine
A cozy drink that’s perfect for winter or holiday entertaining, homemade mulled wine is incredibly delicious and simple to make. This classic recipe makes it easy to customize and experiment with your favorite fruits and spices.
- 1 750-milliliter bottle dry red or white wine of your choice, such as Zinfandel, Merlot or Grenache
- ¼ cup of brandy, Cointreau or tawny port
- 1 sliced orange
- 8 whole cloves
- 2 anise stars
- 2 cinnamon sticks or 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 2-4 tablespoons sugar, maple syrup, honey or another sweetener to taste
- Optional garnishes — citrus slices, cranberries, extra star anise or extra cinnamon sticks
- Add your wine, brandy, orange slices, spices and 2 tablespoons of sweetener to a large saucepan. Briefly stir to combine.
- Cook your ingredients over medium-high heat until it just reaches a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, then let the wine simmer for at least 15 minutes.
- Use a fine mesh strainer to remove and discard the cloves, orange slices, star anise and cinnamon sticks. Taste your mulled wine and stir in extra sweetener as needed.
- Pour your warm mulled wine into heatproof mugs and top with your desired garnishes.
2. Appleberry Mulled Wine
This Appleberry mulled wine recipe is bursting with berry and cinnamon flavors — the perfect winter combo! Apple juice lends itself to frozen forest fruits for the ideal touch of sweetness and texture. Top off the presentation by garnishing your wine with a few apple slices.
- 1 bottle red wine, such as Merlot
- 1 liter apple juice
- ½ cup white sugar
- 1 long cinnamon stick, halved
- 2 anise stars
- 3 tablespoon Cointreau or Curaçao
- A handful of frozen mulled fruit or black forest fruit
- 3 small red-skinned apples sliced into rings
- Pour your apple juice and wine into a large saucepan. Add in your cinnamon stick, star anise and sugar.
- Heat this mixture gently, stirring once or twice until the sugar has dissolved. Continue to heat gently for another 15 minutes.
- Swirl in the Cointreau or Curaçao. Add in the apple slices and frozen fruits before serving.
3. Swedish Mulled Wine
Swedish mulled wine, or glögg, combines red wine, dried fruits, orange zest and spices for a delightful Christmas beverage. Whether sipping it at a party or during a cozy night in, this traditional Scandinavian beverage won’t disappoint!
- 1 bottle of your choice of red wine
- 1 sliced orange
- 1 cup white sugar
- 10 cardamom pods
- 5 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 slices peeled ginger
- A handful of raisins
- A handful of flaked almonds
- 150 milliliters of vodka or aquavit
- Add your orange slices, wine, sugar, spices, raisins and almonds to a large saucepan. Warm the mixture gently for 10 to 15 minutes without letting it come to a boil.
- Stir in your vodka or aquavit, then serve warm.
4. Mulled White Wine
Lighten up your warm winter beverage with this unique twist on traditional mulled wine. In addition to using white wine instead of red, this charming cocktail swaps out hearty cloves and star anise for vanilla, cider and elderflower cordial. Try this mulled white wine if you need a fun change of pace!
- 1 bottle medium-dry white wine of your choice
- 500-milliliter bottle of light cider
- 150 milliliters elderflower cordial
- 2 lemons, zested and pared into strips with a vegetable peeler
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 split vanilla pod
- 4 or 5 tablespoons white sugar
- Add all of your ingredients to a large pan. Heat until the mixture is steaming but not boiling.
- Ladle your mulled wine into glasses or mugs to serve, keeping the rest warm over low heat.
5. Spicy Mulled Wine With Ginger and Peppercorn
If you enjoy the warm yet bold flavors of ginger, this mulled wine is for you. This spicy mulled wine recipe combines strong ingredients like dry red wine, peppercorns, ginger and cinnamon for a robust winter beverage. Dark brown sugar adds just the right touch of sweetness with a hint of bitterness. This recipe calls for candied ginger, but you can always replace it with fresh peeled ginger if desired.
- 1 bottle dry red wine of your choice
- A square of cheesecloth and some kitchen twine
- 2 anise stars
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- 4 peppercorns
- Place the cinnamon, ginger, peppercorns and star anise on the cheesecloth, then tie it into a packet with your kitchen twine.
- Add this mixture to a large saucepan with the brown sugar and wine. Bring the saucepan to a simmer on medium-low heat, then reduce the heat to low.
- Simmer while occasionally stirring for at least an hour, then serve warm.
How to Heat up Mulled Wine
As you can see from the recipes above, heating mulled wine on the stove is a common method. However, a slow cooker is another way to prepare your mulled wine. Keep in mind that this method will take a little longer — up to three hours on a low setting — but it also makes it easier to keep your wine warm throughout the evening. After you’ve completed the recipe, simply leave your slow cooker on low or warm and it’ll stay nice and toasty all night long.
If you prefer the stovetop method or don’t have a slow cooker, there are a couple of other ways to keep your mulled wine warm. You can put the pot or pan back on the stove and reheat the wine — the flavors should remain intact as long as you don’t bring the beverage to a boil. You may lose a bit of the alcohol punch, but you’ll still get all of the warm, spicy and rich flavors.
Another option is pouring your mulled wine into a large thermos to keep it warm throughout the evening. Plus, a thermos makes it easy to serve without having to go back to the kitchen.
How to Serve Mulled Wine
Like most hot beverages, mulled wine is typically served in a mug. We recommend porcelain, ceramic or glass mugs since they help insulate the heat from your beverage.
There are also special glasses designed specifically for serving mulled wine. Mulled wine gasses can vary in shape, but most of them have handles for seamless holding. They also have wide brims that allow you to sip the wine easily, despite garnishes like cinnamon sticks, berries and orange slices.
What to Serve With Mulled Wine
You didn’t think we’d forget the wine and food pairings, did you? Below are some delicious dishes to pair with mulled wine.
Wine and cheese is a classic combo, and mulled wine is no exception. Spiced wine pairs wonderfully with salty and creamy cheeses like aged cheddar, bleu cheese, Roquefort, comté cheese, Wensleydale and camembert. If you need vegan options, cashew-based cheese is a great accompaniment to mulled wine as well.
Meat and wine is another beloved pairing. Tannin molecules in wine help soften the fat in meat, releasing more of its flavor. Grilled chicken, beef and glazed ham are all delicious winter meat dishes to pair with your mulled wine.
Roasted veggies like squash, tomato, eggplants, mushrooms and leafy greens are delicious alongside a glass of mulled wine. Add some meat and mashed potatoes to this ensemble and you’ve got a full holiday dinner.
Sweet, refreshing and nutritious, fruit is another tasty food pairing with mulled wine. Seasonal fruits like apples, oranges, pears and cranberries can complement the flavors of your mulled wine while ringing in the winter season.
5. Cheesy Pasta
A bowl of creamy, cheesy pasta — such as mac and cheese — with mulled wine is a culinary match made in heaven. A homey comfort dish that’s perfect for the cold weather, the chewy pasta and creamy sauce pair wonderfully with the sweet alcoholic wine.
Roasted nuts are incredible with mulled wine. Salt-roasted nuts are an excellent choice, but you can also try some other flavored nuts like honey-roasted, savory herbs and barbecue. Aside from adding a bit of crunch to your food and wine combo, roasted nuts have a salty, smoky flavor that offers more depth to the mulled wine flavors.
What’s a holiday dinner without dessert? With their rich, bittersweet flavors, tasty treats like dark chocolate and gingerbread cookies pair beautifully with mulled wine.
Does the Alcohol Cook Out of Mulled Wine?
Regardless of the variety you choose, heating wine will inevitably cause some of the alcohol to evaporate. But fret not — about 85% of your alcohol is expected to survive the heating process. That means you can heat up your festive holiday drink without worrying about significant alcohol loss. And if you’re concerned about losing too much alcohol when reheating your mulled wine, you can top off your glass with fresh wine of the same base variety.
How Long Does Mulled Wine Last?
If you prepare the mulled wine as instructed in the recipe, cool it completely to room temperature, transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator, mulled wine will typically last about three days. If you notice your mulled wine starting to diminish in flavor, you can always break out the ingredients once again and prepare a fresh, hot batch!
Find the Perfect Base for Your Mulled Wine From Marketview Liquor
If you’re wondering where to buy mulled wine ingredients, Marketview Liquor can help you find the perfect wine base for your beverage. Whether you prefer red wine or white wine, you’re bound to find something from our extensive collection that speaks to your personal taste. Don’t forget to browse our spirit selection to add that little extra kick of brandy, bourbon or vodka to your mulled wine.
Whether you opt for a smooth and fruity Merlot or bold and complex Zinfandel, a hot cup of mulled wine made from Marketview Liquor wine is sure to bring some joy this holiday season. Find the perfect base for your mulled wine from our selection today!