Nothing says winter like a steaming hot mug of mulled wine. Heavily spiced, perfectly sweet, with a warming boozy kick, mulled wine is the perfect beverage to serve when you're hosting family and friends or to take the edge off the hectic holiday season. The best part is how wonderfully easy it is to make.
Mulled Wine's Ancient Roots
A version of this winter wine staple dates back to the 2nd century or so. Spices have long been added to wine both to flavor it and for medicinal purposes. The ancient Romans used spices like ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg brought over by traders along the Silk Route to season their wine and help hide unpalatable flavors in inferior vintages. Mulled wine stayed popular throughout the Middle Ages and was used to keep the cold at bay during winter and as a health tonic. The practice of heating wine and adding spices has never fallen out of style. In Scandinavian countries, glögg is an essential part of the holiday season. This Swedish mulled wine often has an added splash of vodka or brandy for an extra kick. Over in Germany and Austria, you can pick up a mug of glühwein at the local Christmas markets, essential for staving off the Continental winters. Some producers even bottle glögg and glühwein which means all you need to do is take it home and heat it.
Today, although the recipes may look slightly different to those used by those who came before us, there's one thing we can agree one – heating wine and adding a generous dose of aromatic spices is absolutely delicious.
Making Mulled Wine at Home
Whipping up a tantalizing batch of mulled wine couldn't be simpler. Before you start, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Use an inexpensive bottle of wine. Because you'll be adding other ingredients with strong flavors, you'd miss all of the nuance found in pricer bottles.
- Pick a fruit-forward red. The wine's inherent fruitiness will add to the overall deliciousness of your brew. Varieties like Grenache, GSM or other red blends, an inexpensive New World Pinot Noir or Ruby Port, and Shiraz are all excellent choices.
- Add your sugar in gradually so you can control your mulled wine's sweetness.
- You can fortify your mulled wine with a shot of your spirit of choice. Brandy is particularly tasty, as is spiced rum, or fruit liqueurs like the black raspberry-flavored Chambord or orange Grand Marnier or Cointreau.
- Be sure not to let your mulled wine come to a boil.
- Use whole rather than powdered spices. This way you'll avoid creating sediment.
- To serve, mugs as best but in a pinch, tempered sturdy glasses will do. Just make sure they have handles!
- 1 bottle of inexpensive fruity red wine
- 1 tangerine
- 1 lemon
- brown sugar to taste
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 8 cloves
- 1 star anise
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Pour wine into a large pot over a medium heat.
- Peel lemon and tangerine and add peels to wine. Slice citrus and add to wine.
- Add spices and sugar. Simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Once the wine is steaming hot but before it reaches a boil, remove from heat and serve. Garnish with more nutmeg if desired.
Follow these instructions and you'll be certain to make the best mulled wine of the season or you can play around with different spices like ginger, allspice, cardamom, and vanilla to make a mulled wine unique to you.
Mulled wine is especially good for those nights when you're having a few of your nearest and dearest around for dinner around the holidays. It's an undeniably festive beverage and you can tweak the recipe to suit a group of any size.
Make Your Own Mulled Wine
*Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver.