This classic mulled wine recipe is super easy to make, and although a true winter warmer it’s just perfect to enjoy on any cool evening!
Mulled wine is known by many names. Glüwhein, glögg, candola, svařák, vin chaud… wherever in the world you’re from, there’ll likely be a local mulled wine recipe that gets whipped up on the stovetop when the weather turns cool. But what is mulled wine, and how do you make it? Let’s find out with a little trip down history lane!
WHAT IS MULLED WINE?
Put simply, mulled wine – also known as spiced wine – is a warm drink typically made with red wine, combined with mulling spices such as allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, fruits like oranges, lemons, and sometimes even raisins.
Mulled wine has its origins in ancient history, and is one of the earliest wine cocktails ever recorded. The first historical instance of it appears in 2nd century Rome and it is believed that the Romans prepared it to keep themselves warm through the cold winters.
Over the course of their travels and conquests, they carried their taste for it – and their recipes – through Europe, along with the practice of viticulture itself.
Unsurprisingly, given the geographical reach of the Roman empire and its trade networks, countless variations emerged as each country developed its own interpretation based on ready-to-hand ingredients.
Take glüwhein, for instance, Germany’s traditional variation, which derives its name from the hot, glowing irons that were used to warm it. Although usually made from red wine, fruits like blueberry and cherries are occasionally substituted in a fruit wine style, and there is even a white wine version that, while not as popular, nonetheless has a charm all its own.
WHAT DOES MULLED WINE TASTE LIKE?
In a word, sensational – take the lovely fruit flavours of the wine, add the sweet tang of oranges and cinnamon and the savoury spices and you’re in gustatory heaven. Simply put, the common theme in all mulled wine recipes, wherever they hail from, is keeping things warm, sweet and generously spiced!
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OUR FAVOURITE MULLED WINE RECIPE
Mulling wine is an extraordinarily simple procedure. And while the world is brimming over with recipes for it, we make ours based off a recipe found in the 1861 classic, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. Full of beautiful, warming flavours, it’s a sure-fire way to put a smile on your face, and a song in your heart.
It really can’t get much simpler than this – grab yourself the following ingredients, switch on the stove, and get that wine mulling! We like a mid-weight Merlot for our mulled wine, as its silky fruits of plum, cherry and mulberry, its hints of spice, and its soft texture makes it the ideal wine for mulling.
1 cup of water
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
¼ cup of caster sugar
1 small whole nutmeg
1 bottle of Merlot
Splash of Brandy (optional)
1. Add the water to a medium sized pot over a high heat
2. Add cloves, star anise, cinnamon stick and caster sugar.
3. Grate nutmeg, to taste and add to the pot.
4. Zest the orange before slicing, adding the slices and the zest to the pot.
5. Bring to the boil and stir intermittently for 5 minutes.
6. Reduce heat and then add Merlot and brandy (if using).
7. Strain the wine with a fine mesh strainer, removing and discarding the fruit and spice elements.
Now, while the above recipe suggests Merlot, any lighter to medium-bodied red that has a lovely fruit profile – like Pinot Noir – will produce great results. We’d recommend against Cabernet Sauvignon, however, due to the higher tannin levels of the wine. A lighter-style Shiraz should also be fine.
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TIPS FOR MAKING THE BEST MULLED WINE
Make sure the oranges are fresh – if you want to avoid potential bitterness then peel the orange before simmering. For the spices, cinnamon sticks are the best way to go, but if you don’t have any at hand, you could also get away with ground cinnamon in a pinch. If you don’t want things too sweet, try it without the caster sugar.
If you do have a sweet tooth however, you could always substitute the caster sugar with a generous helping of honey, maple syrup or brown sugar. And if you’re not a fan of Brandy, you could always try a splash of cognac, rum, or even bourbon!
Here are some more tips to keep in mind:
- Never overheat the wine – low and slow is the best approach to infusing the wine with your chosen spices.
- For added effect, let the spices steep for about 20 minutes after turning off the heat.
- Feel free to experiment! Bay leaves, apples, ginger and even brambles can be used, leaving you with endless possibilities to devise your own unique twist on this beloved wine cocktail.
- If you like, you can also try making mulled wine in a slow cooker. Just remember to keep an eye on it and top it up when it starts to reduce, adding more spices if their fragrance dissipates.
- One thing to note is that mulled wine gets even better when it’s left to sit a little while, as the flavours mellow beautifully – if you can stop yourself to another helping, that is! And of course, you get those delightful spice aromas filling the house, creating the perfect atmosphere for a wintry afternoon.
MATCHING MULLED WINE WITH FOOD
The abundant flavour and fragrance of mulled wine almost make it a meal in its own right. That said, there certainly are some foods that pair extremely well with the traditional beverage beloved by many around the world.
From saffron buns to ginger biscuits, salty cheeses and pork schnitzel, it’s surprisingly easy to pair mulled wine with food. Head over to this tasty guide from Wine Selectors for our top recommendations of what to serve up when you get the urge to try the mulled wine recipe above.