Wine for mulled wine

There’s a widespread belief that wines used in flavored beverages like sangria and mulled wine don’t have to be high-quality, because the spices, fruits, and other additions will mask any imperfections present in the vino itself. And sure, there’s nothing stopping you from grabbing a few bottles of Two-Buck Chuck or a jug of Carlo Rossi to whip up an okay version of warm winter wassail. But why settle for “okay” mulled wine when you can make an excellent rendition by selecting a base wine that’s inherently well-suited to this purpose?

Because we at The Manual always want to pursue excellence (especially where our libations are concerned), we consulted a group of pro sommeliers to gather their recommendations for the best mulling wines.

Further Reading:

    A Perfect Glühwein Recipe
    How to Make Winter Sangria
    The Best Hot Cocktail Recipes

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

A robust, fruit-forward red wine made from grapes grown on Italy’s Adriatic coast, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo can typically be found at a gentler price point than more high-profile Italian varietals like Barolo and Barbaresco, making it an appealing option for mulling. It’s a favorite of general manager and sommelier Lilly DeForest Campbell of The Milling Room in New York City, who tells us that “ has really nice plummy notes, as well as other dark fruit flavors. It’s not too tannic or acidic, and it goes great with baking spices.” She especially recommends La Valentina “Spelt,” a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that usually retails for about $20 per bottle.

Nero D’Avola

If you’re in the market for a full-bodied Italian red wine with a nice twang of acidity, then Nero D’Avola is the varietal for you. This Sicilian specialty cooperates beautifully with food (yes, including red-sauce pasta dishes), but it’s also a dark-horse contender for “Best Mulling Wine,” according to food and beverage director Judy Velez of City Mouse and Waydown in Chicago. She gives a special shout-out to Colosi Nero d’Avola (generally retailing for $15 or less), explaining that “when looking for a wine for mulling, it’s important to keep four key points in mind: fruit-forward, full-body, high alcohol content, and cost-effective. Colosi Nero D’Avola from Sicily hits every point on that list. The fruit and full body will ensure that the spices complement the wine rather than overpower it, and the high alcohol content makes for a base that can sustain the heat during the mulling process. Plus, cost-effective is always a win in my book!”

Alentejo Red Blends

A Portuguese region best known for red wines with strong fruit profiles, the Alentejo proves an ideal terroir to target when looking for a bottle of mulling wine. Wine director Steven Mendivil of Good Fortune in Chicago gives us some in-depth background on his personal favorite Alentejano wine for mulling, Herdade da Malhadinha Nova Monte da Peceguina Tinto (approximately $15 retail): “I affectionately refer to this wine as “Hummingbird” due to this vintage’s endearing hand-drawn label by the children of this family-owned estate winery. Consisting of an inspired blend of both indigenous Portuguese and classic red varietals, this wine offers depth and rich tannins from the Touriga Nacional & Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as great spice and ripeness from the Aragonês & Syrah, which are needed to keep the fruit components from burning off. It finishes with Alicante Bouschet, one of the few ‘teinturier’ Vitis Vinifera species of grapes, which produce red juice from the flesh without skin contact, offering the intense color and phenolic attributes that translate to a lush mouthfeel even through the cooking and accentuation of bold spices. For added depth , I love to use a splash of Metaxa, a warm and spicy Greek spirit made from Muscat grapes and a blend of Mediterranean botanicals that keeps the full flavors of the holiday season long on the palette.”

Beaujolais Nouveau

The seasonal release of the French Beaujolais Nouveau in late November always excites oenophiles (and also contributes to this lightweight red’s popularity as a wine accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner!). And, according to sommelier Frank Kinyon of a.kitchen & a.bar in Philadelphia, this wine serves a useful purpose throughout the holiday season and into the winter as a great mulling varietal. “I recommend going with Beaujolais Nouveau for mulled wine. It’s cheap and simple, but still has some great bold fruit character and a hint of baking spice from the Gamay grape. The wine is naturally low in acidity and tannin, so you don’t have to worry about those two things affecting your recipe. I suggest buying a bottle of Nouveau from a smaller producer, like Domaine de la Madone . If you’re like me and go a little wild on the amount of Beaujolais Nouveau you pick up for Thanksgiving, you probably have a bottle or two still lying around for your mulled wine!” Kinyon says.

Nahe Riesling

Ever seen a mulled white wine? It’s not surprising if you haven’t since red versions make up the vast majority of the mulling market. However, it’s entirely possible to apply the same principles to a white with a hint of sweetness, like a Riesling from the Nahe region of Germany. Sommelier Michael McCann of Vacillate Wine Bar in Miami likes to mull white wines of this style because “Riesling from the Nahe region of Germany is slightly sweet, but not too cloying. Once mulled with the spices, it will come together really nicely. If you’re serving to a party, it will be a welcome surprise, because people have had mulled wine before, but it’s usually red. This is a nice variation.” Nahe Rieslings can be found for roughly $20 per bottle from producers like Donnhoff and Kruger-Rumpf.

Australian Shiraz

“Big” red wine varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel tend to be popular picks for mulling, and wines made from Australian-grown Shiraz grapes definitely fit into this category. When making mulled wine, beverage director and sommelier Sam Mushman of the Arthouse Hotel in New York City opts for Shiraz from the Barossa Valley on Australia’s southern coast because it has a “medium to heavy body, allowing it to stand up to the other winter flavors and heated. Shiraz is also very fruit-forward with bolder dark-fruit flavors like blackberry, plum, black currant, etc. which are the perfect complement to a mulled wine that warms you up.” Mushman particularly likes to mull Rubus Shiraz Barossa, which he says usually goes for “around $20 retail, and drinks like a $40 bottle.”

Californian “Petite Sirah” Blends

“Sirah” (also known as Syrah) and “Shiraz” wines actually come from the same grape; winemakers in the Old World (specifically, in France) use the first name, while Aussie winemakers opt for the latter. “Petite Sirah” is a rare relative of the Sirah grape, producing smaller fruit than Sirah vines (hence the name) with big dark-berry flavors and a notable undertone of spice. These vines primarily grow in California, and beverage director Patricia Grimm of Adele’s in Nashville considers Petite Sirah blends excellent options for mulled wine. “When making a mulled wine, I recommend a fruit-driven, medium-bodied wine with medium structure, and wines from the Columbia Valley and Lodi work very well,” Grimm explains. Her Petite Sirah blend of choice is Petite Petit by Michael David Wines (widely available for purchase for under $20), a wine that’s “85% Petite Sirah and 15% Petit Verdot. The notes of dark red and black fruit and vanilla soar when warmed and meld beautifully with star anise, clove, maple syrup, and orange.”

West Coast Pinot Noir

The West Coast of the United States produces exceptional Pinot Noir, and its lightweight and spice-related flavor notes render it a strong choice for mulling. Sommelier Steve Sanchez of Cucina Lupo in Carson City, Nevada reaches for a bottle of Pinot for mulling purposes because “Pinots have all the wonderful classic mulled flavors, like nutmeg, star anise, and cinnamon. In fact, I like to make a syrup with those spices and then add a little bit to the wine, which I gently warm. I finish with a touch of orange zest — I use a vegetable peeler instead of a zester — to give the drink a fresh expression that really highlights the flavors of the wine.” As for his mulling Pinot of choice, Sanchez recommends “Pinot Noir from La Pitchoune, a boutique-in-the-best-way winery based in Sonoma County.” These wines are a bit pricier at approximately $30 per bottle, but Sanchez insists that “It’s indulgent to make mulled wine with , but since it’s the time of year to celebrate with family and friends, it’s worth it. “

Bartender and sommelier Michelle Hamo of Brabo Brasserie and Brabo Tasting Room in Alexandria, Virginia, also favors California Pinots when making mulled wine, and her personal preference is James Bryant Hill Pinot Noir from the Central Coast of California, which generally retails for about $15. “ is a New World Pinot, so it has lots of bright, young, and fresh fruit character with tempered acidity that lends itself well to the spice mix and fruit we add to the kettle. It is a blended bottle with 25% of the wine spending time in new French oak. This helps add to the overall flavor (vanilla and supple oak tannins) while not dominating the steamed beverage. Finally, while it is a light-bodied wine, the cherry, raspberry, and currant flavor notes provide a silky and robust quality that gives the mulled drink a well-rounded body,” Hamo tells The Manual.

Carolina Muscadine Blends

Many American vineyards plant vines that are also common in European wine regions, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. But some U.S. winemakers instead choose to focus on grapes that are native to their terroirs, and in southeastern states like South Carolina and North Carolina, the muscadine grape (and the Scuppernong grape, a variation on the muscadine) plays a major role in local viniculture. Sommelier Matt Nelling of Husk in Charleston, South Carolina appreciates the sweetness of muscadines when selecting wines for mulling, and he singles out Lowcountry Red from South Carolina’s Deep Water Vineyard (about $13 a bottle, plus shipping costs) as a top-notch wine for this use: “I would go with a Lowcountry Red from Deep Water Vineyard on Wadmalaw Island . They specialize in the unique grapes of South Carolina, muscadine and Scuppernong. The native grapes are a real treat of the Lowcountry, as seen at farmer’s markets throughout the summer. Their Lowcountry Red is muscadine at its finest. The robust flavor of the wine allows for plenty of room to accent and highlight with spices.”

Lefteris Kallergis

Argentinian Malbec

The Malbec grape owes its heritage to the acclaimed French wine region of Bordeaux, but wine growers in South America have since taken this red varietal to new levels, with nations like Argentina releasing rich, tannic, and full-bodied Malbec vintages on an annual basis. San Francisco-based wine writer and sommelier Paige Comrie of Wine With Paige tells us that “personally, I love an Argentinian Malbec for mulled wine — with a silky mouth-feel, big full body, and earthy tones, it’s the perfect complement to the spices that are often found in mulled wine. The varietal and region also give a great price-to-quality ratio, and it’s easy to find in just about any wine shop. If you’re looking for a particular bottle, I’d recommend Norton Coleccion Malbec. At an average retail value of just $10, this bottle is a steal and easily in most Trader Joe’s locations around the country. You’ll find an earthy mustiness on the nose. followed by chocolate, ripe plums, and a finish of allspice and cloves — perfect for blending into a mulled wine and curling up by the fireplace this winter!”

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On the first day of Christmas – well, December – I found myself waiting at an unusually fragrant bar. “Ooh, mulled wine!” said my friend, “brilliant!” And lo, despite having arrived with the intention of sinking a cold, dry gin and tonic, I ended up clutching a plastic cup of warm sweet wine. Such is the time of year.

Despite its high sugar content, mulled wine is not a drink that’s aged well. The thin, oddly sour broth on tap at most pubs during the festive season is a sad comedown for a tipple originally designed to show off the wealth and generosity of a medieval household. Mulling is not just an excuse to serve laughably cheap wine to your unfortunate guests, although it does have that as a fringe benefit – there’s a real art to it.

Medieval tipple

Given the drink’s origins, I decide to start with a recipe from The Forme of Cury, a cookery book published about 1390, which starts, promisingly: “Pur fait Ypocras …” I must grind together cinnamon, ginger, galangal, cloves, long pepper, nutmeg, marjoram, cardamom and grains of paradise – although sadly I’m unable to lay my hands on any “spykenard de Spayn”. A historical site helpfully suggests substituting rosemary for this aromatic Indian root, so I stick a bit of that into the pestle and mortar as well. Further than this, the recipe is coy, so I tip in some cheap French red, on the vague basis that wine was probably pretty rubbish in those days, and a suitably parsimonious amount of sugar, and taste. The mishmash of spice is overpowering – it tastes like something that might have been used to ward off the plague, rather than to make merry with during the cold, candle-lit evenings of the 14th century.

Mrs Beeton

Jumping forward five centuries, I turn to Mrs Beeton, Delia’s Victorian great-grandmother, for advice. She’s also pretty vague (“in making preparations like the above, it is very difficult to give the exact proportions of ingredients like sugar and spice, as what quantity might suit one person would be to another quite distasteful” she explains, helpfully), but at least the list of ingredients is more manageable: cloves, grated nutmeg, cinnamon, wine and sugar.

Thing have moved forward in 500 years; rather than just sticking everything into ye pan and hoping for the best, this recipe starts with a mulled tea. I simmer the spices together in 235ml water, “until the flavour is extracted”, and then add a pint of wine, and some sugar to taste, and bring it all to the boil. The result? Classic mulled wine – not particularly exciting, but palatable enough, despite the inclusion of water, which has no place in a wine-based punch.

Delia

Delia’s own recipe is an old favourite of mine: heat a couple of bottles of wine with 6 tbsp honey, an orange studded with cloves, a few slices of orange and lemon, some ground ginger and a cinnamon stick, and allow to simmer gently for 20 minutes before serving. The citrus works brilliantly with the warm spices to create a kind of winter sangria effect which never fails to please, particularly if one takes her up on the optional 2 tbsp of Grand Marnier, and then adds a few more for good measure.

Jamie

Time marches on, however, and since I first pledged allegiance to Delia and her Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon, there have been developments in the world of mulled wine – as seen in Jamie Oliver’s “Christmas in a glass”. Unlike Delia, with her pleasingly simple one-step method, Jamie’s recipe kicks off with a syrup base, made by putting the sugar in a large pan along with some clementine juice and peel, lemon and lime peel, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaves, nutmeg and vanilla, and then pouring in enough red wine to just cover it all. This is then gently heated until the sugar has dissolved, at which point the cook merrily cranks the heat up and keeps the mixture at a rolling boil until it becomes a thick syrup.

“The reason I’m doing this first,” Jamie explains, “is to create a wonderful flavour base by really getting the sugar and spices to infuse and blend well with the wine. It’s important to do make a syrup base first,” he continues, “because it needs to be quite hot, and if you do this with both bottles of wine in there you’ll burn off the alcohol.” And no one wants that, do they?

Once the syrup is ready, you can pour in the rest of the wine and a couple of star anise, heat through, and serve. Although I think he’s been a bit heavy-handed with the sugar and citrus peel, the flavours seem better blended, and mellower than I’m used to – and, it strikes me, it would be easy enough to make a batch of syrup in advance, and then dispense as required throughout the mulled wine season, in the manner of a well-prepared paragon of domesticity.

Glögg

As in so many things, anything we can do the Scandinavians can do better – and despite its faintly unappetising name, their take on mulled wine, glögg, somehow conjures up visions of cosy firesides and log cabins, rather than plastic beakers and sticky pub carpets. Unlike the glühwein sold at kitschy German markets up and down the UK, which is strikingly similar to our homegrown stuff but twice the price, glögg has its own, rather fearsome reputation, largely thanks to the strong spirits which lace most versions.

Cocktail king Dale deGroff, “widely acknowledged to be the world’s greatest living bartender”, according to his book The Craft of the Cocktail, takes his recipe from Los Angeles’ Scandia club, whose members included Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper, so what it lacks in authenticity, it makes up for in celebrity provenance. I pour a bottle of red into a large pan along with raisins, flaked almonds, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon and orange peel and leave it to stand for 24 hours before warming gently, adding sugar to taste, and finishing off with a generous amount of vodka. I’m not too keen on the vodka, or the soggy almonds, and the lengthy infusing time has given the glögg an unmistakable hint of cough syrup. Still, those starlets will drink anything.

Festive flavours

Jamie is characteristically casual on the exact details of his recipe, urging his readers to “feel free” to add their own favourite spices to the pot too. I, however, take the liberty of removing the vanilla pod, which works in tandem with the sugar to make the whole thing rather sickly, before adding cardamom pods, in a nod to the 14th-century recipe. A dash of ginger wine gives the whole thing a kick of spice – although you could substitute a pinch of ground ginger instead if you don’t keep a bottle handy for medicinal purposes.

Although I like the idea of using honey, I find it has a rather assertive flavour which clashes with the wine itself, as does soft brown sugar – plain white caster sugar is the best option here I’m afraid.

Serve this with a proper garnish, and a dose of festive cheer, and you’ll find it warms the cockles of even the sourest Scrooge this Christmas.

Perfect mulled wine

Felicity’s perfect mulled wine. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

Makes about 12 servings

2 unwaxed oranges
1 lemon, peel only
150g caster sugar
5 cloves, plus extra for garnish
5 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 bottles of fruity, unoaked red wine
150ml ginger wine

1. Peel and juice 1 orange, and add to a large saucepan along with the lemon peel, sugar and spices. Add enough wine to just cover the sugar, and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 – 8 minutes until you have a thick syrup.

2. Meanwhile, if you’re serving the mulled wine immediately, stud the second orange with 6 vertical lines of cloves, and then cut into segments to use as a garnish.

3. Turn the heat down, and pour the rest of the wine into the saucepan, along with the ginger wine. Gently heat through and serve with the orange segments as a garnish. Alternatively, you can allow the syrup to cool, and pour it into sterilised bottles for use at a later date.

Is mulled wine a guaranteed spirit raiser, or by far the worst thing about Christmas – Slade and paper hats included? What do you put in your own festive punch – or what would you prefer to be offered instead?

People tend to regard mulled wine as an easy way to get rid of wine otherwise deemed undrinkable. I know this because I was one of those people. As it turns out, boiling red wine with powdered cinnamon, a cup of apple juice you stole from your niece, and whiskey because it was the only brown liquor in the joint, does not make mulled wine. It makes everyone mad you took two slightly undrinkable bottles of wine and turned them into an extremely undrinkable pot of hot booze.

Mulled wine when done (even kiiinda) correctly is delicious, and makes use out of red wines people bring to your house during the holidays that yeah, you might not want to drink. It is also the closest you can get to serving up literal glasses of holiday cheer. The key is not to assume you’re going to have everything you need spur of the moment. Here’s how to stay prepared to make last-minute mulled wine.

The basic proportions based on BA’s mulled wine recipe:
1 bottle of wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup Port
1½ cups of apple cider
4 apples
1 small orange
10 cloves (pressed into the oranges if you want to be fancy)
1 cardamom pod (or 12 seeds, optional)

Keep whole cinnamon sticks and whole cloves in the cabinet. If you don’t already have these things, it is a $7 investment that is well worth it. The powdered ones that are on the complete collection spice rack your mom gave you as a housewarming present five years ago will not do. That shit is old and tastes like it.

Have spiced apple cider in the fridge. Some recipes may let regular apple juice slide, but you’d need to add so much extra spice to make up for it. Also, why is anyone drinking regular apple juice when this is the only time of year you can be drinking cider? Don’t play yourself.

Add a bottle of brandy or tawny Port to the bar cart. You can find options for both wine-based spirits for under $15 at your local wine shop or even Whole Foods. My vote is for the Port because I enjoy drinking it alone more than brandy in case you go through the next month without making any mulled wine and still want an option for nightcaps, but that’s just me. Technically, you don’t need brandy or port to make mulled wine in a pinch, but most recipes include it. I find it adds a heartiness to the drink, and keeps it from tasting like you’re serving a bottle of red that was left in the back of your car for the entire month of August (hot, and gross).

Two oranges and four to eight apples, give or take. In a pinch, if you don’t have oranges, just skip them—don’t substitute with too-sugary orange juice.

The Bon Appétit mulled wine recipe calls for two cardamom pods, which are sometimes hard to find and not something you’re just going to keep around. However, you can buy cardamom seeds in the spice section along with cinnamon and cloves. A pod generally has around a dozen seeds, so you can use that math for your recipe. Cardamom adds an almost tannic dryness that can offset some sweetness, while adding depth and aromatics.

Ideally you want to use bigger and bolder red wines like Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah, or Cabernet, but any fruity red wine your family members are leaving around will do. I’ve used Pinot Noir before to success. Honestly, whatever red wine that you’re stuck with and you don’t want to drink, they’ll work. Just don’t mix varietals, like one bottle Cabernet and one bottle Pinot Noir.

Ask a Somm: What Bottle Is Best for Making Mulled Wine?

Welcome to Ask a Somm, a column in which experts from across the country answer questions about wine.

Helmed by former Barnyard chef Jesse Barber, Dudley Market is Venice, California’s relaxed, sun-drenched cafe offering up the season’s best. Similar to its local and sustainable food ethos, sommelier Jared Weinstock seeks out wine from producers who keep the environment in mind, highlighting less manipulated, high quality bottles. Below, he considers a holiday classic: mulled wine.

Q: I’m going to make a mulled wine at some point for this holidays, but what is the best kind of wine to use for that?

If you are going to make a classic mulled wine, I would recommend something that has relatively high alcohol, lots of fruit, and relatively high tannins. Wines like a California Zinfandel, some Grenache, Merlot, or Touriga Nacional from Dão would be good bets. These sturdier wines can withstand a bit of heat without some aromatics or too much alcohol becoming volatile and burning off, and can really compliment some of the spiced flavors (clove, star anise, cinnamon) without the wine becoming drowned out by spice.

Some wines I would recommend for mulled wine would be Broc Cellars Vinestarr Zinfandel ($32) from Sonoma County because of its juiciness, Habit Red, a Bordeaux Blend ($40), because it carries these well integrated cinnamon and sweet wood notes that could benefit the spices added to the wine. I would also recommend Quinta do Escudial from Dão ($12-30), a juicy wine with firm grape tannins and lots of dark-fruit character. I would also consider wines from Inkwell Wines out of Mclaren Vale, Australia ($15-40). Mulled wines need wine with a fruit-forward nature, so lots of warmer climate reds would do well.

Mulled wines need wine with a fruit-forward nature, so lots of warmer climate reds would do well.

Mulled wines have been produced for thousands of years, being mostly popularized through the western world by the Ancient Romans. People have been making it with local ingredients in uniquely traditional ways, and so there is no true “best” wine for the job. I would experiment. Adding rustic apple and pear ciders (a little brettanomyces never hurts), oxidized wines like a blended Madeira (particularly from the Bual grape or Tinto Negramoll if you are using citrus seasonings), tawny port, or even a vin doux naturel like Banyuls would be a fun and interesting experiment.

Some Guidelines

Never over heat the wine. There are some wines that should be able to withstand a bit of heat, and others that just crumble when heated up. I would recommend infusing the spices with a “low-and-slow” method. Warm a pan with the spices (possibly even lightly toast the spices) and add the wine or liquid. Let it heat until it’s warm and almost too hot to touch. Alcohol starts to vaporize at 173 degrees Fahrenheit, so you want to keep the temperature well below that. Turn the pot off and let the spices steep for 20 to 30 minutes. I like to finish with an orange wedge (and maybe a splash of brandy).

As far as the specific ingredients, you can really make it your own. A classic mulled wine for me consists of a cheap, extracted and full red wine, clove, cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, a touch of honey, brandy, and an orange slice to garnish when served. You can throw in cardamom, lemon zest, chamomile flowers, apple or pear, or even ginger.

Another twist on mulled wine is to experiment with things like bay leaf, sage, or tea infusions (black tea, chai) or even hibiscus and fruit infusions like peach and late season stone fruit, bramble fruits (think warm sangria) etc.

If you don’t want all of the spices floating in your drink, you can sachet the spices by tying them inside of a cheesecloth, much like a large teabag.

Do I want to just go for the cheap stuff since I’ll be heating it?

If you’re making mulled wine, you shouldn’t completely care about the quality of the wine. All of the subtle notes in wine will be overshadowed by the intense spices and sweetness you add, so again, don’t buy a Burgundy premier cru or a Trousseau from Jura or even a Chinon. Sure, you should buy a cheap wine that is somewhat palatable, but purchasing really quality wine for mulled wine is a huge waste of money. Why? Because you are most likely making mulled wine in batch (you’ll need bottles and bottles), you are usually drinking and serving to many people, (as in a holiday party, etc), and you should already have consumed quality beverages before, such as tasty Champagne.

Have a wine-related question you’d like answered? Hit the comments.

Dudley Market

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This recipe for Swedish Glögg creates the spiced, warming drink that is perfect for serving at Holiday party.

Celebrate the Holidays with Swedish Mulled Wine

This time of year, there’s always a reason to raise a glass, whether it’s to celebrate the return of family and friends around your table or just to take some time to enjoy the snowflakes and this season in your own life as another year comes to a close.

Special occasions call for special drinks. You know, those drinks that just add that extra special feeling to whatever you’re celebrating. The drink we’re sharing today is one of our favorite brandy-spiked Holiday drinks: Swedish Glögg.

We love sharing mulled wine at special occasions when the weather turns cooler. It’s something everyone enjoys and takes things just a notch fancier than your everyday wine.

Swedish Glögg

Glögg (pronounced gloog) is an infused wine whose name means “glow.”

While German mulled wine typically just heads for the spices and citrus flavor, Sweedish Glögg is a combination of red wine, port, and brandy steeped with aromatic spices.

Served warm, it is incredibly popular during the Christmas season, but makes for a great, warming drink whenever the temperatures turn chilly.

The legend goes that King Gustav I Vasa of Sweden loved a warm drink made from German wine, sugar and spices. His drink was later named “glödgag vin,” meaning “glowing-hot wine,” a name which was then shortened to glögg” in the later 1800’s.

Many traditional Swedish recipes will call for aquavit, a vodka that has been flavored with caraway or dill seeds. Brandy is a commonly found alternative, and we love the way the brandy flavor works with the spices.

But, if you are an aquavit fan, go ahead and add it in!

Spices and Citrus: Our Glögg Recipe

Recipes for glögg vary greatly from family to family.

We love warm spices, so we load ours up with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. We also love the play of spices and citrus, so we use fresh orange peel to give a wonderful citrus aroma.

Our glögg is also on the less sweet side.

By using a red wine that we could easily sip on during a lazy evening, we don’t have to add as much sugar to the glögg itself.

But, if you prefer your warm beverages more on the sweet side, feel free to double the sugar in the recipe or to add more sugar after the glögg as been mixed, as your taste desires.

(If adding more sugar after making the glögg, simply mix equal parts sugar and water to dissolve the sugar before adding it to the glögg.)

One thing that we really love is serving this drink out of a wide mouthed vessel, like brandy glasses. The wide mouth lets you get your nose right in there to smell the wonderful aroma of the spices and citrus.

So, what are you waiting for?

No matter how you’re celebrating, raise your glass and celebrate this Holiday season!

Prep Time 10 minutes Cook Time 40 minutes Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • ½ c sugar, (or to taste)
  • ½ c water
  • 1 750 mL bottle dry red wine, (Cabernet Sauvignon works well)
  • 1 750 mL bottle Port wine
  • 1 c brandy
  • 1 c raisins
  • 1 c blanched almonds*
  • Peel of ½ orange
  • 2 slices fresh ginger, peeled
  • 10 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 whole cloves

Instructions

  1. Heat sugar and water in a large saucepan until it has dissolved.
  2. Add liquor, raisins, and almonds. Tie the spices and peel in a square of cheesecloth (or place in a tea ball) and place into the mixture.
  3. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat until it begins to steam (do not let it boil), 30-40 min.
  4. Taste and add more sugar if you would like, dissolving ¼ c sugar in ¼ c water at a time.
  5. When the mixture is warm, remove the spices and serve it immediately, making sure to float some almonds and raisins in each glass. ‘
  6. Alternately, remove the almonds and raisins and place the glögg into jars (or bottles). Store in the refrigerator to be used within 1-2 weeks.

Notes

*Be sure to use white, raw or blanched almonds without the skins. The skins could make your glögg bitter.

Recommended Products

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  • Whole Cardamom Pods
  • Whole Raw Blanched Almonds
  • Cinnamon Sticks

Nutrition Information:

10

Serving Size:

1/10 of recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 321

Mulled wine

Glögg is an essential part of the lead up to Christmas in Sweden with glögg parties are held throughout Advent. Indeed many Swedes attend two or three glögg parties every weekend in December!

Glögg is the Swedish version of mulled wine, but it is not quite the same as mulled wine in other countries as different spices are used and almonds and raisins are always placed in the bottom of the glass before the glögg is added.

The spices were originally added to wine in Sweden to mask the taste as it was of rather dubious quality. The quality of the wine is no longer an issue, but glögg is so firmly established as an essential part of Swedish culture that the spices are now added to perfectly good wine!

Glögg is usually served in quite small glasses in Sweden, partly because many Swedes are often staggering from one glögg party to another! Outside of Sweden glögg parties are less common, so invite your neighbours and make the portions more generous! John Duxbury

Summary

Tips

• Try to make glögg a week or more in advance to give the flavours time to mature.
• For a less alcoholic version, omit the vodka and add the spices to the wine in step 2.
• If you are short of time but would still like your glögg to have a nice kick, add a splash of vodka or brandy to the bottom of the cups along with the raisins and almonds just before you pour in the glögg.
• Serve with pepparkakor (gingersnaps) or lussekatter (saffron buns).

Alcohol free

If you want to make an alcohol free version, omit step 1 and add the spices to either an alcohol free red wine or blackcurrant cordial (syrup), diluted according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

75 ml (5 tbsp) vodka
2 cinnamon sticks
10-20 cloves
2-3 pieces of dried ginger (see photo above)
1 tsp cardamom pods
3-4 pieces of dried Seville orange (bitter orange) peel
½ tbsp raisins (optional)
1 bottle of red wine, any will do
110 g (½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
1 tsp vanilla sugar
2 tbsp raisins
10-20 almonds, blanched and peeled

Method

1. Pour the vodka into a small jar. Add the cinnamon, cloves, ginger, orange peel, cardamom and raisins (optional). Cover and leave to infuse for at least a day, preferably a week.

2. Pour the vodka and spices into a saucepan and add the wine and sugars. Stir and heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is hot but not boiling, about 80ºC (175ºF).

3. Leave to cool and then sieve, to remove the spices, and pour into sterilised bottles* and keep until required.

4. Heat gently before serving, but don’t let it boil.

5. Place 2 or 3 raisins and 2 or 3 almonds in the bottom of each glass and top up with glögg.

*Sterilise by washing and then placing it in an oven at 120°C (240°F, gas 1, fan 120°C) for 10 minutes.

Storing

Glögg will keep for several weeks in sterilised bottles.

Downloads

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German Mulled White Wine

I borderline stalked my friend for her German Mulled White Wine recipe that she got while living in Germany. It was worth it.

I’m becoming one of those annoying people. I fixate on recipes until I have them in my greedy little hands, and will harass you until I get it. An example, this white mulled wine recipe. If eat or drink something incredible at your house, there is a better than good chance I’m going to ask you for the recipe and share it here. (You’ve been warned.)

On Halloween, my sweet friend Lynn had us over to her house for trick-or-treating. (She does Halloween right you guys, I took notes.) When we got there, you were immediately hit in the face with the most incredible smell. Spicy and citrusy – the whole house smelled like a hug. I found out that it was her famous mulled wine. One sip in, a new obsession of mine began and it has been mulled wine all the time since.

I went to bed that night wondering how I was going to have more mulled wine in my life. The next morning I texted her for the recipe. She immediately texted me back and told me she would type it out for me. She has way more important and pressing things to do than indulge my need for mulled wine and forgot all about it. (Just like I would have.) Normal people probably would have forgotten about it and would moved on. Oh no, not me, I’m not normal.

You guys, I borderline stalked her for this recipe.

I’m not proud. And I am so thankful that she still talks to me after I harassed her so much.

They lived in Germany for a few years and she got this recipe from a restaurant there. I normally would never have even taken a sip. I stay away from really sweet drinks (because hangover) but this is not too sweet. It is a little sweet, but not cloying, and has a lot of bright notes from the citrus. As you can tell she has played with the recipe to get it just right.

I make a half batch when I make it (I’m on batch number 3), because it makes a lot. 6 liters of wine is no joke. If I have any leftover, which I almost always do, I strain out the citrus and spices so that it doesn’t get bitter. Keep it in a pitcher in your fridge and pour out a mug. Reheat it gently so that the alcohol doesn’t cook out. (I was sipping on a mug while I was writing this post.) It is so warming (my house is freezing all the time) and it is a nice little winter ritual.

When you are picking a wine for this mulled wine recipe, choose something that is dry and not sweet. These pictures are from two separate occasions (no longer striving for perfect) and I used Chateau St. Michelle and Zum riesling. I would choose wines from Eastern Europe, and not American or New Zealand because those rieslings tend to be really sweet.

Stud an orange with cloves. Slice your lemons.

Pour in your wine. I like to simmer mine on the stove, but you could add everything to a slow cooker and set it on low and let it go for a few hours.

Add the sugar, citrus, and spices. How gorgeous does that pot look?

Let it simmer on the stove for 20-30 minutes before serving. It can hang out for a few hours, just be careful to keep it warm and not bubbling. It will cook off all of the alcohol.

(This is a half batch.)

Ladle into mulled wine into mugs and serve with lemon slices, a cinnamon stick, and a grating of fresh nutmeg.

Mulled white wine, otherwise known as a hug in a mug. Also, a delicious Christmas tree decorating beverage.

  • 1 orange
  • 16 cloves
  • 6 liters white wine (I like dry reisling. Auslese or a dry German wine is good.)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 lemon
  • 8 cinnamon sticks, broken
  • 14 whole allspice seeds
  • 6 cardamom pods, crushed

For serving:

  • fresh nutmeg
  • lemon slices
  • cinnamon sticks
  1. Stud the orange with cloves. Slice in half.
  2. Add wine, sugar, and orange juice to a Dutch oven, large pot, or slow cooker.
  3. Add studded orange, lemon, and spices.
  4. Simmer on very low heat, stirring occasionally. If using slow cooker, set on LOW for 2 hours.

You know Christmas is on its way when you have your mitts wrapped around a mug of mulled wine. But while the comforting warmth and slightly stained lips are two happy by-products of supping this glowing ruby tipple, there are pitfalls. Insufficient sugar, a grainy texture and too much spice can all dent festive cheer, so we’ve got some tips for creating the perfect mulled wine.

How do I make mulled wine?

Start with a classic recipe to use as your base. Ours recommends adding a dash of sloe gin to give you an extra warm glow. Alternatively, try our easy mulled wine recipe, which includes a dash of brandy. Be careful not to overheat the wine.

Easy mulled wine recipe

Serves 6

  • 750ml bottle of red wine
  • 1 sliced clementine
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 3 dried figs
  • 4 cloves
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 50ml brandy
  1. Pour the red wine into a large saucepan. Add the clementine, cinnamon stick, star anise, figs, cloves and peppercorns. Heat very gently until simmering, then turn off the heat.
  2. Fish out the whole spices and peppercorns with a spoon, then stir in the brandy. Ladle into mugs or heatproof glasses to serve. You could drop in a slice of clementine to each.

What spices should I use?

The more traditional mulling spices are cinnamon, star anise, cloves and nutmeg, but you could try adding allspice, cardamom, bay leaves, vanilla pods or ginger, depending on the liquid you’re mulling.

Use all of these spices sparingly, particularly star anise and cloves, as they become very strong in flavour when left to stew at length. A touch of citrus complements these warm spices a treat. Orange and lemon won’t let you down, but tangerine, clementine and mandarin will add an extra festive kick.

Alternative spirits to try

Ramp up the cheer – it is Christmas after all! Choose a liqueur or spirit that’s fairly low in alcohol to avoid completely incapacitating your guests. Cointreau, Grand Marnier or curaçao work with orange-based mulling blends, while a touch of sloe gin will bring out berry flavours in the wine. Check out our video on how to make sloe gin for your own homemade tipple.

A delicate drizzle of spiced rum, such as Sailor Jerry, ginger wine and cherry or apricot brandy can also work, but be careful not to go overboard. Avoid anything that might curdle, strongly contrasting spirits or anything cloying – while it’s tempting to match the spices with something aniseedy, sambuca mulled wine would kill the party mood in an instant.

Use a sweetener

Lighten up the heavy booze and wintry spices with a sweetening agent. Add sugar at the beginning of the recipe so it gets a chance to dissolve. Stir regularly until it has disappeared. Most of our recipes use caster or granulated sugar due to their fine texture. You can always add a little extra sweetness later but, again, make sure you stir to dissolve.

If you’re going freestyle, honey or a flavoured syrup can be added to taste as the mixture is taken off the heat, but make sure you give it a good stir.

More tips for DIY mulling

It’s worth investing in some muslin so you can create your own spice bag. Fill it with any unground spice such as cinnamon sticks, whole nutmeg, cloves or ginger slices. This way you won’t end up with floaters.

Dot cloves into the skin of oranges and lemons to kill two birds with one stone – it will infuse the mix and it looks pretty, too.

Twists on traditional mulled wine

There are plenty of drinks that are fit for mulling beyond the ubiquitous red wine. Cider works well, but make sure you avoid the sweet, fizzy, bottled variety – try to get your hands on some flat farmhouse scrumpy, perry (pear cider) or dry French cider. Alter your spices accordingly: lift the mix with apple or pear juice, some fresh cranberries, vanilla and apple slices.

While it’s usually enjoyed crisp and chilled, white wine can also be mulled. Team it with light flavours like elderflower cordial, rosemary, vanilla and thyme. And don’t forget any non-drinkers; mulled apple juice with mild spices and orange should fit the bill nicely. Our mulled rosé also makes a festive alternative – be sure to add a generous glug of crème de cassis.

Check out our guide to 5 mulled drinks you can make in minutes for your next festive gathering.

How to get ahead

Keep a pre-made bottle of spiced syrup in the cupboard to avoid a last-minute mulling crisis. Combine sugar and water with the spices of your choice and simmer for 20 minutes. Once cool, strain it through a fine sieve and pour into sterilised bottles.

Our recipe features instructions on how much of the syrup to add to wine, but if you’re adding to your own taste, it’s a good way of controlling sweetness and spice levels. It’ll keep for up to three months, too.

Want to prepare ahead of time? Try our slow cooker mulled wine recipe. The low heat ensures the wine doesn’t boil and the flavours stay fresh.

How to serve mulled wine

Serve in style, going off-piste with your cups. While fragile glass is a no-no, sturdy dimpled half-pint glasses look good and have a useful handle. Garnish with whole cinnamon sticks and pared orange or lemon peel. You could also add a wedge of citrus studded with cloves – it’s best to make one fresh rather than fishing a soggy slice out of the mulling pan.

Like these suggestions? Check out other cocktail content…

Mulled wine recipes
Cocktails & drinks inspiration
Mulled wine brownies
Mulled wine gift kit
Festive drinks recipes

Is mulled wine your favourite festive drink? Do you have a preferred method? Share your tips with us below…

Mulled wine sounds delicious but sometimes ends up being a waste of a decent bottle of red. Here’s how to make sure you serve up something your guests what to drink this Christmas.

The wine

A common question is what type of wine should you use for mulled wine.

The ideal reds to use are young, bright, fruity and ideally unoaked.

Very fruit driven is best for a quaffable mulled wine. Look for Italian reds, Southern French or New World Merlot and Shiraz.

Wines such as Morrisons Pinot Noir, £4 or The Co-operative Fairtrade Merlot, £7 both of which performed exceptionally well in our wine taste tests would work well.

Mid-range is best as quality really does make a difference (don’t use something that you wouldn’t really enjoy drinking!).

However, avoid expensive wines, it’s a waste. Not a red wine fan? Why not try making mulled cider instead?

Flavourings

The next step is the sugar or honey to sweeten and the spices which will create your mulled wine.

Add cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, star anise and ginger according to your taste.

Spices should ideally be gathered in a muslin pouch or bag in order to avoid guests choking on small floating spices!

A popular twist is to create a mulling syrup (simmer sugar and water or wine with your spices for around 20 minutes until you have a thick, sweet, spicy syrup to add to your wine).

For those with a slightly boozier palate, why not add a splash of sloe gin, Cointreau, Grand Marnier or ginger wine to your brew.

Garnish with orange slices and cinnamon sticks.

Rather not freestyle? Take a look at our recipe:

What to do with leftover mulled wine (if there is any!)?

Mulled wine makes an excellent addition to red cabbage, alternatively for those with a sweet tooth, steep cranberries or pears in leftover mulled wine and serve with ice cream or add a splash to your cranberry sauce.

Why not create a mulled wine kit for friends and family?

Serving suggestions

Mulled wine is ideally served steaming but not scolding at a Christmas drinks party accompanied by honey and almond glazed chipolatas or sticky pigs in blankets; parma ham swizzle sticks;

Blue cheese canapés such as ham and blue cheese ctraws and Duck canapés like these crispy duck pancakes.

Why Does It Matter What Wine You Use?

There are ways to make bad mulled wine, and this has to do mostly with the type of wine you choose. Generally, mulled wine is best made using a dry or semidry variety of red wine. You should avoid any alcoholic, tannic, acidic, sweet-flavored or Brett wine. These often become too concentrated as you go through the mulling process. You should also watch out for wines with a high sulfite content as these often develop off-flavors.

1. Broc Cellars Vine Starr Zinfandel 2017 vintage

This is one of those reds that come highly recommended if we are talking wine candidates for mulled wine. The Californian Zinfandel is the product of Broc Cellars from Sonoma County. The area is famous for some of the smoothest Zinfandel varieties you can find in stores. The wine has a nose composed of black cherry, raspberry, jam-like strawberry, blueberry with some light oxidative notes and vanilla oak. A dry red of this kind is perfect due to the light tannins. It also has the right flavor profile to rise above what spices you choose to use. Making mulled wine with this wine takes very little in the way of additives as you will only need citrus and orange peels for simple preparation.

2. Shiraz

This is one of the most respected wines in Australia and the rest of the world. It comes from the Syrah grape, which is the dominant grape in vineyards in Australia. The winemaking style for Shiraz wines is focused mainly on bright and fruity flavors such as blackcurrants, black cherries, and blueberries. Underlying notes include spice, pepper, and chocolate, which blend well with the full-bodied texture of the wine. This too is a prime choice when it comes to mulled wine. Add some cloves, cinnamon and orange slices and you have a recipe for your mulled wine. Take a look at what kind of grapes go into these bottles of wine in “Best Grapes for Making Wine“.

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3. Beaujolais

The wine gets its name from the small French region it comes from. It is made from Gamay grapes. The region is close to the Burgundy region, which is the more prominent name. You can choose from ten varieties of wine that come with different flavor characteristics according to the region. Generally, the wine has fruity notes of tart cherry, raspberry, and cranberry. These are followed by underlying flavors of banana bubblegum, forest floor, and mushroom with a smoky finish. Make your mulled wine with a little of the wine and you will love how well the flavors lend themselves to the rest of the spices you use. You will not need to add a lot of alcohol as the bottle itself comes with 10-13% ABV, which is quite sufficient for alcohol content.

For more sweet tasting wines, check out “The Most Popular Sweet Wines” for a list of wines out there with lighter and sweeter flavors.

4. Bordeaux

This is one of those French wines that you leave for special occasions, but who says you can’t make some delectable mulled wine with it? There is plenty you can do with a good bottle of Bordeaux, and mulled wine is not such a bad idea. The wine’s spicy and fruity notes give character to your drink and will not overshadow the spices you choose to use. The earthy notes are most welcome as they blend well with spices such as cinnamon sticks and cloves.

5. Nero D’Avola

This is one of the Italian wine varieties known to make good mulled wine. The wine hails from the vineyards of Sicily and is among the inexpensive selections on the list. Though it comes at a pocket-friendly price, make no mistake; the quality is right up there with the best dry reds you can think of. You will love this particular bottle for the leathery and black cherry notes. The wine has an opulent flavor profile that is fruity with a smooth finish. Oak aging allows the flavors to blend well, and you should have no problem tasting your spices and herbs when you use this wine. Find some exciting recipes for mulled wine and make yourself something warm this winter. For more Italian options, take a look at “List of Four Best Italian Table Wines” for a list of the best options out of Italy.

6. Malbec

Malbec is one of the pros when it comes to mulled wine recipes. The wine has a high level of acidity since the grapes are grown in high-altitude regions. It can be hard to get your mulled wine just like you want it if you don’t know how to remedy the acidity. In terms of flavor profile, the wine has a soft, fruity nose of vanilla and blueberry. Use as few spices as you can and focus more on the citrus flavors, which can be achieved by adding orange slices.

Take a look at “Most Common Fruity Wines” for more options on fruity tasting wines and find out with fruity wines aren’t all considered sweet wines.

If you are making mulled wine this winter, then you are better off focusing more on the recipe than the wine as long as it is red, dry and low in tannins. This is because the spices and flavorings you use for your mulled wine will probably overshadow the underlying notes of the wine. The floral notes, however, will give the drink an aroma that will keep you seeping from your glass more often than you plan to. If you plan to make mulled wine, one of the main drinks to warm your cold days, then you better have some spiced syrup in a bottle for when you want to fix yourself a drink quick.

Thanks for reading! Let us know in the comments below if you have ever tried making mulled wine before. Be sure to check out other wine mixing options like “Can You Mix Red and White Wine?“, “How to Make Peach Wine“, or even “Beginner Wines that You Need to Try“.

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Bottoms up! We’ll uncork ya later!! 🍷

The best red for mulled wine is fresh, dry, juicy and medium-bodied. Fruit-forward is key. Steer clear of oaky or overly tannic wines, which can turn bitter when heated. Light-bodied wines can get lost amid the intensity of mulling spices, while very jammy, full-bodied wines can become cloying.

You might be tempted to use big, “spicy” wines that reflect the ingredients that will be infused. But the spice and citrus added, not to mention sugar and brandy, will thwart any subtleties of a spicy wine.

Look instead for balance between the mulling ingredients and the wine’s fruitiness. Most wines will work, but try Grenache, Tempranillo, Valpolicella, Sangiovese, Merlot and warm-climate Pinot Noir that are unoaked, or aged in neutral oak.

Ingredients

  • 2 oranges
  • 2 bottles dry red wine
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, 3–4 inches long, plus additional for garnish
  • 12 allspice berries (can substitute 12 cloves)
  • 4 whole star anise
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • ½ cup brandy
  • Whole nutmeg, grated (for garnish)

Directions

Scrub oranges well. Using vegetable peeler, carve large ribbons of peel from 1 orange. Juice remaining orange. If it yields less than ¼ cup juice, juice additional orange.

Add orange peel, juice, 1 cup wine, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, star anise and peppercorns to a 3-quart stockpot or Dutch oven. Over high heat, bring to rolling boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add remaining wine and brandy. Heat until just below 170°F. Use candy thermometer to measure temperature. Grate nutmeg over top, and garnish with cinnamon stick.

Published on December 21, 2018