Your Mulled Wine Guide – Recipes, DIY kits and ready-made options to Try Now
If autumn’s unofficial scent/flavour is pumpkin spice, then winter takes it up a notch with the rich sweetness of Christmas treats and of course, the mellow warmth of mulled wine.
The practice of heating and flavouring wine can be traced back to ancient Rome, and it was already popular across Europe during Medieval times. However, the link between mulled wine as we know it and Christmas are quite recent, and only became strong in the mid-19th century.
Charles Dickens’ iconic “A Christmas Carol” (1843) describes a variation popular in Victorian England and known as “Smoking Bishop”, which was made with Port, red wine, citrus fruit, sugar, and spices such as cloves.
And while those ingredients are often featured, there is no unique way to prepare it. Mulled wine has as many names as tweaks to the recipe across Europe. For example, German’s Glühwein, Sweden’s glögg, and The Netherland’s bisschopswijn are all local twists of a similar principle. In fact, you don’t have to go country by country to find variety as it is really the type of preparation one can make one’s own by playing around with the ingredients and finding the proportions that match our taste.
Make your own
If you do decide to go the DIY way, there are some general principles to help you make a wonderful, balanced, delicious mulled wine at home.
- What wine to use: This is the backbone of your recipe so choose a wine that you would drink on its own (but of course, don’t break the bank). Fruity, rich and full bodied reds are ideal, for example, a vibrant Malbec, a new world Merlot or a spicy Shiraz. Don’t bother looking for an oaked bottle, because that will be the spice’s job.
- Ideal spice mix: As a rule of thumb, if a spice has a place in cakes or biscuits, it is welcome. If it belongs more in a ragu, maybe not so much. While cinnamon and clove are bosses here, adding more variety will give your mulled wine depth of flavour (think cardamom, nutmeg or star anise). Avoid ground spices as they’ll leave an unpleasant residue and go for whole spices instead (a handy idea is to mix them in a cloth bag or another infuser you can remove at the end).
- Citrus: Oranges and tangerines work best. Depending on how sweet they are, you’ll need to add more or less sugar. Add the juice and the external part of the peel, but not the fibre or the white part of the peel as it will release unwanted bitterness.
- The temperature: While you can heat your wine for as long as you need to, temperature control is important as you can’t let it boil. This would cause the alcohol to evaporate, over extract the spices and burn the sugar, hence ruining your mulled wine.
- Spike it up: If you wish to give your mulled wine an extra punch, ruby Port is a very classic option. About half a cup per bottle of wine should be enough, as you don’t want to overpower it. You can also go for Triple-Sec to enhance the orange notes or a drop of golden rum for a honeyed kick.
If you are a planner and want to prep ahead, you can make a mulled wine syrup. To do this, mix one part of wine with one part of sugar, plus your spices of choice, and cook in a pot until all the sugar has dissolved (don’t boil it). To serve it, simply mix this syrup with normal red wine in the proportion of your liking.
Top recipes to try
If the whole experimenting around until you find your ideal mix is not really for you, and you rather have a bit of direction, why not try some of our favourite recipes here at TheTaste:
- The classic: Mulled Wine Recipe by The Irish Countrywoman’s Association.
- The fool-proof: Festive Spiced Mulled Wine Recipe by Chef Shane Smith.
- The plot twist: Chocolate mulled wine by bartender Darren Geraghty.
Need a bit of help? Make life easy with punch bases and spice kits
Would you rather use that extra time doing something else and still enjoy a comforting glass of mulled wine?
One option is to buy a mulled cordial and just add wine and heat. This is very handy if you also want to have an alcohol-free variation at hand as you can use hot water or fruit juice in lieu of wine for a wholesome mulled treat.
Belvoir Mulled Winter Punch
Multi award-winning cordial producer Belvoir blends elderberry, blackcurrant and orange juice with various spices for a natural and intense warmer.
This mulled fruit drink is on the sweet side, with red berry flavours, ideal for a wintry fika, or Swedish coffee break.
€2.50, available at Ikea.
Another way to simplify the process is to use a pre-made spice selection. While you can make this yourself in advance with muslin bags filled to your taste, it is possible to find some commercial and artisan spice blends.
Foxford Mulled Wine Spice Mix
A balanced combination of brown sugar, Foxford dried orange slices, cinnamon, star anise and cloves. Just add wine, and maybe a drop of whiskey.
€4.50, available at foxfordwoollenmills.com
Mulled wine spices by Kylemore Acres
A festive mix of mulling spices from Co. Galway-based spice and herbs experts.
Schwartz Mulled Wine Spice
A fragrant mix of allspice, dried orange peel, cinnamon (Cassia), cloves, and nutmeg.
€1.92, available at Supervalu
Spare me the DIY, I just want to drink some mulled wine
Looking for something even more immediate? Here are some ready-made mulled wines to try, as well as a couple of alternatives.
Specially Selected Mulled Wine
This flavourful mulled wine nicely balances sweet spices and fruity notes on a base of Tempranillo with cinnamon and clove.
€6.87, available at Aldi.
Harvey Nichols Mulled Wine
This limited edition bottle is made for the retailer with wine from the German region of Pfalz, mixed with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice.
€18, available at harveynichols.com
Edinburgh Mulled Gin Liqueur
This liqueur (ABV 20%) combines classic gin botanicals with cinnamon, clove, orange, nutmeg and ginger.
€23, available at celticwhiskeyshop.com.
Kinsale Wild Red Mead
This beautiful Irish mead is fermented off-dry with Wexford blackcurrants, dark cherries and raw honey.