Spiced Mulled Wine

ChristmasFavorite WinterMake-aheadWine

Mulled wine is a must-have drink for the holidays – spicy, warm, perfect for parties, and super easy to make, especially if you use a slow cooker! This one is simmered with ginger and brandy for a little extra oomph.

Photography Credit: Nancy Mitchell

Mulled wine is one of my favorite things about winter. No matter how cold or dreary it is outside, a cup of hot spiced wine is guaranteed to warm your body and your spirit.

It’s also super easy to make, and you can even make it ahead for a party; just put all the ingredients in a pot and start warming them a few minutes before guests arrive. (Bonus: It will make your house smell amazing.)

Want an even more hands-off approach? You can also make mulled wine in a slow cooker!

THE HISTORY OF MULLED WINE

Humans have been drinking heated, spiced wine for a long time, at least since Roman times. (According to Vinepair, the Greeks did it, too.) This persisted throughout the Middle Ages, because, as you may learn when you make it, heating and adding spices to wine is a great way to make not-great wine taste really good.

Hot spiced wine is a holiday tradition throughout the world. In Germany it’s known as Glühwein, and in the Nordic countries as Glögg.

Spiced mulled wine in the slow cooker

WHAT KIND OF WINE IS BEST FOR MULLED WINE?

An inexpensive big, rich red – like a Cabernet or a Malbec – is a good choice for mulled wine.

This is definitely NOT the time to pull out a really nice wine; in fact, I usually make mulled wine with the lowest priced bottle I can find because the spices and the orange mask the nuances of a more expensive wine. You can even use the Charles Shaw brand of wine from Trader Joe’s (colloquially known as Two-Buck Chuck) or boxed wine for this; just make note of how many bottles are in the box and adjust proportions accordingly.

WHAT SPICES ARE BEST FOR MULLED WINE?

I like cinnamon and clove for their warmth and flavor, and ginger adds a little zip. (Try it, if you don’t believe me.) This mulled wine is sharp and spicy, enough to warm you up, wake you up, and then relax you again.

ADDING BRANDY OR LIQUEURS TO MULLED WINE

Brandy, a spirit made from distilled wine, adds extra oomph to mulled wine, which is why I include it here. However, you could add a little Applejack, pear brandy, or pear liqueur instead. (Apples and pears play very nicely with spices, and also with wine.)

MORE WINTER DRINKS TO ENJOY:

Spiced Mulled Wine Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings

The key to mulled wine is to warm the wine without boiling it, which would cook off the alcohol. When your kitchen smells so achingly good that you're dying to try a cup of this masterpiece, you'll know it's done.

Ingredients

  • 1 orange
  • 15 whole cloves
  • 1 bottle red wine (inexpensive Cabernet or Malbec)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (turbinado is nice)
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup brandy

Special equipment:

Method

1 Stud the cloves into the orange, then cut the orange: Push the cloves into the orange (see this picture for reference), then cut the orange into half circles. (Studding the cloves into the orange means you won't have to worry about floating cloves in your drink.)

Alternatively, cut the orange into half circles and add it and the cloves to the wine separately.

2 Add ingredients to the pot: Add all the ingredients to a pot or a slow cooker.

3 Heat the wine: On the stovetop, simmer the wine for 20–25 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to mix ingredients and dissolve sugar. If you're using a slow cooker, heat the wine on low heat for 1 1/2 hours or on high for 45 minutes, until warm.

When the mulled wine smells amazing, tastes spicy, and is hot (but not boiling), it's done. Serve and enjoy!

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Nancy Mitchell

Nancy is a writer and photographer living in New York. She makes drinks with local and homegrown ingredients and writes about the New York cocktail scene on her Instagram feed and at her blog, The Backyard Bartender.

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