Mulled Wine: It was never about being classy.
One of the most troubling matters during the age of exploration was the question of how to transport wine without having it spoil. Buyers in England would order wine by the barrel and by the time it arrived for delivery, it was usually destroyed by heat or oxidation (or both). That begs the question: what does one do with several barrels of crappy wine? Well, with the help of some strong spices, apple cider, and heat, you’d have yourself a mulled wine party! Problem solved.
Mulled wine: the yummiest holiday tradition you’re missing out on.
Mulled wine is a spiced hot wine cocktail with many variations and the best ones are quite easy to make. Back in the day, adding spices helped cover up the wine’s flaws. Fortunately, today we don’t have the same issues with wine quality and even cheap box wine makes a great base for this drink. Below are some of our favorite recipes for mulled wine as well as a few tips (and selected wine choices).
This recipe is as easy to make as it is easy to drink. Also, you should definitely try leaving out the brandy if you just want a lighter alcohol version that you can drink more of. Try it with different spices (such as allspice, ginger, fresh turmeric, etc.) if you are curious about new variations. You can add more sugar at the end to fit your preference, but honestly, it’s better (and healthier) without it.
Classic Mulled Red Wine Recipe
- 4 oz Red Wine (preferably Zinfandel)
- 2 oz Unfiltered Apple Juice/Cider
- 5 Allspice berries
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- Orange Peel for garnish
- 1 oz brandy* (*optional)
Party-Sized Mulled Wine Recipe
- 1 bottle (750 ml) Red Wine (preferably Zinfandel)
- 1 1/2 cups Unfiltered Apple Juice/Cider
- 3 Tbsp Allspice berries
- 5 Cinnamon Sticks
- Orange Peels for garnish
- 6 oz brandy* (*optional)
Directions: In a large pot, heat the apple juice, wine and spices together on the stove just until it starts to bubble on the sides of the pot (94º C). Strain the liquid into a glass and garnish with a curl of orange peel.
Note: We tested several recipes which included honey, sugar, star anise, and a myriad of other exotic spices. When it came down to making the drink however, the best one was the simplest (above). We found it was more important not to be stingy choosing unfiltered apple cider and the right type of red wine. Additionally, don’t over cook the wine, just get it up to temperature so that the spices release their flavors.
The Best Wines to Mull
We used a Zinfandel from Lodi which had lots of sweet fruit and smoky flavors.
Of course, any red wine will do, but if you really want something stupendous, Zinfandel is a winner because of its natural affinity to baking spices. If you can’t get a Zin, try Italian Primitivo (same grape), Sangiovese, or Garnacha. All of these wines focus on red fruit flavors and spice.
Feuerzangenbowle is a tradition in Germany and if someone you like a lot loves to play with fire, this technique will make them the happiest mulled wine drinker in the world. This recipe I found years ago when we first posted about mulling wine.
Directions: Make the classic mulled wine recipe above and then hold a rum soaked spoon of sugar (must be high proof, like Bacardi 151) over your drink and then light it on fire! When it starts to caramelize and brown, dunk it into your drink, stir, and savor.