Mulled Wine

Adding sweeteners and spices to wine then serving it hot – sounds a bit like herbal tea with alcohol, doesn’t it? – was something I never understood. I’m giving it another look this Christmas season because I happen to like herbal tea, it’s something new (to me anyway), and I’ve got some bland wine that I don’t know what to do with. I was excited when I made wine from supermarket grapes, but in the end I didn’t want to drink it. Sweetening didn’t help, but maybe mulling will.

Mulling Spices

In researching mulled wine (in cookbooks, Wikipedia, search engines, my Mom), the same ingredients keep coming up:

Ingredient Amount per Bottle of Wine
cinnamon 1-2 sticks
cloves 6
citris (juice and/or zest) from half an orange or one lemon
sugar or honey about half a cup

Also common are vanilla, nutmeg, ginger, and cardamon. You sometimes see pepper, peppercorns, nuts, and raisins too.

Making Mulled Wine

Dissolved sugar or honey in water (about half a cup to a cup – enough to dissolve and cover everything, but no more), bring to a boil, take off heat, add spices, and cover. If using citrus juice, use a little more sugar/honey and a little less water. Let sit on low heat for about 20 minutes. Strain and add wine. Heat the combined mixture (but don’t boil) and serve hot.

This ought to work just as well with mead or cider – maybe even beer.

You can omit the water and stir everything into the wine, then heat the wine – I’ve seen recipes take either approach. I prefer to do the dissolving and extraction separately to guard against boiling the wine.

Straining out the spices might be easier if you use a tea bag or tea ball.

Citrus juice might help by adding flavor if your wine is bland. If you’re going to be zesting, for mulled wine or anything else, a dedicated zesting tool is a godsend.

Final Thoughts

I’m excited about making mulled wine this year. I haven’t decided on a commercial mix or making it from scratch – maybe I’ll try both. I’d love to hear about your experiences with mulled wine – triumphs, disasters, better methods. If you’re having trouble finding supplies, check out my new mulled wine store.

Update 12/13/2010 – A great eggnog recipe!

Eggnog is another tasty treat for the holidays, and this eggnog recipe won’t disappoint!

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10 thoughts on “Mulled Wine

  1. Matt

    We made mulled wine last year for a pumpkin carving party from a few bottles of two buck chuck. This year I had made some apple cider that turned out rather sour so we mulled that, the sweetness from the added sugar balanced out the sourness in the cider and it actually turned out quite tasty. (I didn’t add any citrus to the mulled cider).

    We just heat it in a pot on the stove and add ingredients to taste. I don’t know the exact flavor profile of your bland wine, if it’s not very sour you may want to add more orange/lemon than normal. Another thing that may be worth trying is adding a little brandy to your mulled wine, that really helps to warm you up on a cold winter’s night. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Anise

    I love making mulled apple cider. One ingredient I always add is allspice, just a pinch of whole pods. I find it really adds that extra layer. Depending on the type of cider, sometimes I will add a dash of dark rum.

    Mulled drinks are the best part of the holiday season, especially when it gets cold and snowy.

  3. Erroll Post author

    Hi Matt,

    I thought about heating everything up together in one pot. It’s a lot simpler than doing the extraction separately, and I went back and forth between them for a while. In the end I was just too worried about “overcooking” the wine. It sounds like it worked out for you, so I might reconsider.

    I like the idea of adding brandy – how much did you use?


  4. Erroll Post author

    Hello Anise,

    Allspice? As soon as I read your comment, I thought, “why didn’t I think of that?”

    Matt with the brandy, you with the dark rum, I’m sensing a pattern here. It seems mulled wine needs a little boost ๐Ÿ™‚


  5. Matt

    I’d say add brandy to taste. I’ve never actually added it to mulled wine, I just figured since Brandy is basically distilled wine it’d fit pretty well flavor wise.

    I have added brandy to regular wine on occasion, maybe about half an ounce to a glass of red wine and it turned out well, enough so you knew it was there but not overpowering the flavor of the wine.

  6. Erroll Post author


    I added a little more than a shot to a one-bottle batch of mulled wine. I liked it, but the Lady of the House thought it was too much. Maybe a little less next time.


  7. Cory

    vin brรปlรฉ!!! Awsome stuff!! I just came back from a trip to Italy and Paris, thats where I dicovered this type of wine. This works well with most all red’s and especially cheap ones!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ cincin tutti!!!

  8. Bob Toombs

    Hi Erroll
    Found article about adjusting acid in mead interesting. Would you be willing to share your source of information with me? I tried to find it and have had no luck so far. I want to share it with my students but need a reference text.

    As for bland table grapes—-I find that adding some elderberries makes a very big difference.

  9. Erroll Post author

    Hi Bob,

    You mean my article on acidity in mead, right? Dr Jonathan White did a lot of research on honey and I think he was the first to describe the problem. Here is a link to his paper on the interplay between acid and lactone in honey, how that interferes with traditional titration, and a proposed method to determine free acidity:

    He mentions this, without going into detail, in his “Composition of American Honey.” It was published as USDA technical bulletin #1261, and is no longer available from the USDA. The last link I knew of is broken and so are many others in the Penn State collection of Jonathan White’s papers:

    It’s a shame because this bulletin is the most comprehensive survey of honey composition we have – or are likely to have for some time. A lot of other sources reference 1261.

    Hope this helps,

  10. Lyle

    I always liked mulled anything and read about the mulled wines. Everyone puts the mulling spices into the finished wine but I was wondering why the wine could not be made right from the start with mulling spices. My first attempt at doing so is about complete and with one exception of using too much sugar — it is pretty good. Many favorable comments on it. I used a heavy dose of mulling spices in a cherry wine must and then again in the carboy for about a month. Due to the higher amount of sugar, I call it a dessert wine. Next time I will lower the sugar and make it a dry wine. I don’t see why this would not work with apple wine as well.

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