If you live in a place where winter chills your bones, rain is a daily misery, and you’re accustomed to shoveling snow, then you probably know what mulled wine is. It’s that delicious holiday drink that warms you up from the inside out. But, in case you didn’t know, we’re based in Los Angeles, so we can safely assume many of our Angelenos have no idea what this warm, delicious wine drink is. Our version of cold is in the fifties, in our defense, and we don’t need to use all of our resources to warm up. Sorry, not sorry.
In any case, since we know our audience is based all over the country (crosses fingers) and our education levels on mulled wine drastically differ, so with that in mind, we’ll give you all of the ins and outs of this delicious winter drink!
What is Mulled Wine?
Mulled wine is a fragrant and festive drink that is perfect for the holiday season! Occasionally this drink goes by the alias spiced wine because it is created by combining mulled spices and red or white wine. Mulled wine is more commonly made with red wine, specifically a fruity red wine or port, as these give the final product a sweeter flavor. However, these days, there are delicious recipes that call for white wine instead of red! So to heck with tradition, you do you! Mulled wine is served hot, and in Europe, it is a traditional drink served in Christmas markets!
Why is it served hot? Because that’s what makes mulled wine so delicious! When mulled wine is created, the spices create rich, mouthwatering aromas and flavors that only get released when heated. Without the heat, those aromas and flavors don’t get released, and instead, you're just drinking cold wine with stuff floating in it.
Mulled wine is often served in a ceramic or porcelain cup. But, if you’re a true mulled wine enthusiast, you might own special mulled wine glasses. Designed for serving mulled wines, they have handles that allow consumers to hold the drink even while hot and have a wide brim to drink the wine even with all of its garnishes.
One of the many beautiful aspects of Mulled Wine is that it’s a drink that you can enjoy on its own. Like by the fire, reading a book, or even this article! (gasp!) But, there are a few dishes that really bring out the delicious flavors of the drink! Serve mulled wine with fondue, cheeses, or mince pies for a mind-blowing, delightful experience at a holiday party.
What is the History of Mulled Wine?
We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but apparently, mulled wine was not considered a ‘high-class’ beverage back in the day. In the Victorian era, spicing wine was a method of flavoring poorly stored wines shipped from France. So we’re guessing the wealthy people just stored their wine better. Cute.
But in any case, if you’re going to be serving this festive drink this season, we want to prepare you with its history so you can indeed be the ideal host! Mulled wine dates back to the 2nd century when it was concocted by the Romans. Legend has it that Romans originally created the drink when they began heating wine to warm up during the cold winters. Can't say we blame them and really appreciate they turned to alcohol. Guess they really did know what was going on. Moving on, if you know any history, you are aware that Romans conquered most of Europe throughout the next century. In between conquering, they still made time for their favorite hot drink and, therefore, spread their beloved mulled wine across their empire and with the regions where they would trade.
Mulled wine’s popularity continued to grow throughout the middle ages. Believing mixing heated wine with spices was a way to promote health and avoid sickness, Europeans were also big fans of the drink. They even started using the same technique with apple ciders to make a drink called wassail. Europeans would also use the mulled wine technique to make their not so tasty wine taste a lot better. Perhaps this is where mulled wine started getting its bad reputation?
Alas, even mulled wine peaked, and the craze faded across Europe. Well, that is, everywhere but Sweden who took the drink, ran with it, and made it their own! Even the Swedish monarchy got into the drink and decided they enjoyed mulled wine so much, they made their own variations: Claret and Lutendrank. Claret consists of Rhen wine, sugar, honey, and spices, while Lutendrank is created from a mix of spices, wine, and milk.
Like all female celebrities, unfortunately, know far too well, mulled wine had to reinvent itself to become more popular. In the 1800s, recipe books began referring to mulled wine as glögg. But mulled wine’s big turning point happened in the 1890s when, now known as glögg, became synonymous with Christmas. Pretty much every wine merchant across the country had their own recipe to share. Merchants produced unique bottles that included Christmas and Santa Claus depictions, depicting the drink in a new, fun, festive light!
Today, there are many different variations of mulled wine, particularly mulled red wine. Because you asked so nicely, here are the three most common:
Vin Brûlé: Say Ciao to the Italian version of mulled wine! Sounds gross, but Vin Brûlé literally means “burnt wine,” so you can’t say their name isn’t creative.
Glogg: As previously mentioned, Glogg is the Swedish version of mulled wine.
Here’s the situation when it comes to making this spiced drink. There are many different spices and techniques used in mulling wine. The most basic and straightforward involves the following spices: orange, cinnamon, and star anise.
But because we promised to go through the ins and outs of wines, let’s discuss the ingredients in-depth so that you have all the knowledge necessary to make this delicious drink.
Wine: We’re hoping that you already put together that you’re going to need a bottle of wine for this drink! But, for a mulled wine recipe, there’s really no need to splurge on a pricey bottle, and instead, you should reach for a basic bottle of dry red or white wine. Heck, if you’re making a big batch, break out that boxed wine you have hidden away! The caliber of wine really doesn’t matter because when the wine is heated, some of the flavor compounds are destroyed. And as wine lovers, do you really want that expensive bottle you got for your wedding to be used for a recipe that will kill some of its deliciousness? We think not, so save your quality merlot or high-end cabernet sauvignon for another day. Plus, if you need more convincing, the mulling spices are powerful and can drown out the wine's subtler flavors. So with mulled wine, cheaper is better.
Cinnamon: To make you drink look super festive, you can throw in some cinnamon sticks. But truthfully, any ground cinnamon that you have on hand will do! However, some mulled wine specialists argue that powdered spices can lead to grainy or gritty wine. So if you are worried about that, you can use full spices and then strain the yuckiness out before serving for a smoother drinking experience.
Mulling spices: These vary from country to country and depend on the individual’s taste preference. But overall, the most common is what we discussed above: orange peel and whole star anise. Other whole spices that many add to their drink include bay leaf, whole cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns, and plums.
Sweetner: If you’re looking to make your mulled wine sweet, grab a sweetener! If you’re trying to steer clear of processed sugar, a cup of maple syrup or a cup honey offer an excellent, delightful sweetness. (BREAK FROM MULLED WINE TO PLUG IN BEV: reminder, we're a zero sugar, fizzy wine drink that is perfect for any season.)
Extra liqueur: Looking to make your cocktail a little more festive? Spike your mulled wine with a bit of liquor like a cup brandy, bourbon, or cognac. If you have a favorite alcohol, it very likely will work!
1. Combine All Ingredients in a Saucepan
Here we go! You’re finally starting the mulled wine process! FOUR for you Glen Coco! You go, Glen Coco!
Put all of your ingredients in a large pot or saucepan and heat until the wine BARELY reaches a simmer over medium heat. Pro tip: avoid letting it bubble because, let’s be real, you don’t want to boil off the alcohol. (Seriously, you don't want to boil off the alcohol, do you?)
When it hits that perfect point, reduce the heat to low heat, cover, and let the wine simmer for 15 minutes to three hours.
4. Garnish and Enjoy!
Before you garnish, use a strainer to remove any extra cinnamon sticks or pieces of flavoring that may be floating about. Give your drink a taste and then decide if you want to add any sweetener.
Looking to garnish and make your drink extra special? Here are some fun things you can add: drop in a cinnamon stick, include some orange slices, or mix in some brightly colored cranberries.
If you are hoping to keep your mulled wine warm for a long evening, there are some options for you. Here are some ideas:
Use a Slow Cooker: While slow cooker mulled wine will take more time, it is so much easier to keep warm for long periods. You can do so by leaving your slow cooker on low or warm. Viola! Warm mulled wine all night long!
Thermos: If you have a big enough thermos, you can keep your mulled wine on hand all night long.
Reheat: If you make your mulled wine in a pot, you can always put the pot back on the stove and reheat it. Remember: do not bring your wine to a boil because you’ll lose a little of the alcohol.
Whether you live in a cold area or not, mulled wine is the perfect holiday drink for everyone! Get all of your spices together, throw in some liquor, and you’ll be the belle of the ball! Well, after your drink, of course.