Warm and wine are typically two words that don't go together. But during the holiday season, they have their moment! If you live in a place where snow happens, you know that the best way to warm yourself up from the inside out is through a nice warm beverage. And the best best way to warm yourself up is when that drink is spiked.
This is where Mulled Wine enters the scene! A fragrant and festive drink that is made for the wintertime Mulled Wine is all sort of delicious. Created by combining mulled spices and red or white wine, Mulled Wine has so many different variations and recipes that beg to be made this holiday season. Let's go through a few so that if you find yourself shivering on a cold winter's day, you can make the best drink to warm yourself up and pretend you're at a European Christmas market!
Mulled Red Wine
Mulled wine is a spiced wine that goes by quite a few names, depending on the country of origin. For example, it's called Glogg in Sweden, gluhwein in Germany, grzaniec galicyjski in Poland, and Vin Brûlé in Italy. We'll discuss these different types below and how they differ in spices.
But first, understanding the history of Mulled Red Wine helps us know why today there are so many different versions of the popular Christmas drink. If Mulled Wine were a person, it would be long gone by now. Harsh, but true. Mulled Wine's history goes back all of the ways to the 2nd century when the Romans began heating wine to warm up during the frigid winter months. Because the Romans pretty much dominated all of our elementary school history books, we know that the Romans pretty much conquered Europe for the next century. While doing so, they were sure to share their favorite hot drink across their newfound empire and share it with the regions they did trading.
But Mulled Wine's popularity didn't stop there. It only continued to grow in the middle ages. Because Europeans believed mixing heated wines with spices was a way to stay healthy and prevent illness, Europeans were die-hards for the drink. (Note: wouldn't it be awesome if we discovered the cure to COVID was through drinking wink. Heck, we'd be so safe.)
Here is where the story gets a little sad for Mulled Wine. Europeans also used the Mulled Wine technique to make their disgusting and cheap wine taste good. Because of it, snobby bougie people began associating the drink with the lower class. And with that, the high level had had enough of the spiced hot drink. For most of Europe, Mulled Wine's popularity diminished.
That is, everywhere except for Sweden. The Swedes took the drink and made it their own. In fact, the Swedish Monarchy liked the drink so much that they made their own variations. Over time, more and more countries followed Sweden's example and began making their unique drink versions. As alternative spices and recipes continued to develop, mulled wine started to be referred to as 'glog.'
While staying a low-key popular drink, Mulled Wine didn't have its major glow up until the 1890s when it officially became a Christmas drink. Suddenly, wine merchants from across Europe began distributing the drink with their own unique recipes. And when they did, they distributed it in wine bottles that painted the drink in a festive light: with Christmas scenes and Santa Claus.
To this very day, Mulled Wine is a drink that is a Christmas tradition, perfect for a holiday party! And there's no surprise there! As we said below, we'll go into the different countries and their respective versions of mulled wine and the spices they use. It might remind you a bit of sangria, especially because it often includes fruit like orange slices, but this is a drink all its own. But first, let's discuss mulled red wine as a whole.
Mulled Wine is more traditionally made with red wine instead of white. Because mulling spices like star anise, whole cloves, and cinnamon sticks overpower many different tastes in wine, you shouldn't use a wine that has a delicate flavor. Instead, reach for bigger and bolder, full-bodied wines. Pick a fruity red wine, like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Zinfandel.
Another essential aspect to remember when learning how to make mulled wine is that you will be heating your red wine. If you know anything about storing wine properly, you know the number one thing is to keep your wine away from heat and direct sunlight. Why? Because when the wine is heated, some of the flavor compounds are destroyed. With that in mind, when you're creating your own mulled wine, we suggest grabbing a cheaper red wine because, well, do you want to use a fancy bottle that will be ruined? Didn't think so.
While Mulled Wines are traditionally made with red wine, recipes call for all different types of wine these days. The most important rule of mulled wine is serving it hot. Without the heat, this hot spiced wine wouldn't have its rich, flavorful aromas. The only way for spices to release their powerful aromas is through the low heat that you simmer them over on the stovetop! You can even make Mulled Wine in a slow cooker or crockpot these days— the total time might end up being longer, but it's an easy, hands-off method that you can ladle right out to guests.
Vin Brûlé is the Italian version of mulled wine. It specifically came from Northwestern, Italy. Vin Brûlé was a recipe passed down in generations and, therefore, dramatically varies for different families. The traditional spices used include cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, mace, and both lemon and orange peel, and you can garnish with these same ingredients when you serve it.
The Swedish version of Mulled Wine typically mixes a fruity red wine with port and then adds the hard alcohol like rum or brandy. The spices that are traditionally used in Glogg consist of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, orange zest, and ginger. The drink is usually topped off with some raisins and slivered almonds. To create non-alcoholic drink recipes for Glogg, Swedes typically substitute orange juice or grape juice for the alcohol. But, as you can likely assume, Glogg recipes vary greatly, and variations are often made with different kinds of wine and other types of spirits.
While in most countries, Mulled Wine is typically homemade, non-alcoholic and alcoholic versions of Glogg can be purchased ready-made.
Another version of Mulled Wine, Wassail is a hot mulled cider that traditionally played an integral part in 'wassailing.' Waissailing is a Medieval Christmastide drinking ritual intended to ensure a good cider apple harvest in the upcoming year. More specifically, the purpose of wassailing was to awaken the cider trees while simultaneously scaring away evil spirits to ensure the good harvest.
Wassail, therefore, was the hot, mulled punch that was drunk from a wassail bowl. Early versions of the drink were roasted crab apples. The warm drink then evolved into a mulled cider made with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger that was then topped with slices of toast as sops and drunk from a large bowl. Today, the recipes have further evolved, but typically, begin with a wine base, fruit juice or ale, and a liqueur like brandy or sherry.
Mulled White Wine
Although mulled red wine is more traditional, mulled white wine is also delicious. Still warm like its red counterpart, mulled white wine still has the flavorful depth but is lighter in the body. When creating the white version, pick a not too acidic wine, such as an oaked Chardonnay. More astringent wines are known to develop a harsh edge when heated. You could also supplement with festive drink cranberries for a little added oomph.
Wine Spiked Hot Apple Cider
A drink that crosses a lot of taste thresholds. It is both spiked apple cider, and part mulled wine. The mulling spices balance out the intense apple cider flavors and are sure to warm you up on a cold winter's day! When making this delicious spiked drink, the key is not to rush the recipes. The flavors from the spices need time to come out and evolve. Another suggestion is to use a few different whole spices rather than ready-made blends. Why? Because in the end, you won't be left with the chalky texture that sometimes occurs when you use loose herbs.
There are many ways to get warm in the winter, and we might be biased, but spiked hot drinks are the best way to warm up! Give these recipes a taste and share which one both warmed you up and tasted the best!