Mulled Wine is on my holiday absolute-must list. I was first introduced to this festive drink (also known as spiced wine or hot wine) at a Christmas market in France, and it’s since been a recipe I look forward to making every single year. If you’re entertaining a crowd, this mulled wine recipe can be made in big batches in the slow cooker, or you can quickly whip up a batch on your stovetop.
Mulled wine is popular throughout Europe, especially at Christmas, and I was hooked from the first sip.
My first cup was in Lyon, France. Ben remembers having German mulled wine on a trip with his family, and last November I sipped a delightful cup at a small market in Spain, despite the fact that it was 60 degrees and cold spiced wine might have been more appropriate. Let nothing stop the merry making!
Here in the U.S., outdoor Christmas markets like the one I visited in France are popping up right and left. Chicago’s downtown Christkindlmarket has been going strong for years, and I’m soooo excited because one has also opened in Milwaukee. You best believe I sample the spiced wine each year for additional holiday inspiration.
Fortunately, no matter where you live, spiced wine is incredibly simple to make in your own kitchen.
I make a batch of homemade spiced wine every season and have been tweaking the recipe over the years to have just the right balance of spice, sweetness, and warmth.
This recipe is my absolute favorite version. It is the ideal combination of mulled wine spices and has become a tradition my friends look forward to every year.
What is Mulled Wine?
- A traditional mulled wine recipe consists of wine (usually red) that is heated with the cook’s preferred mix of spices, along with optional ingredients like apple cider and citrus, along with optional (or not optional) additions like brandy.
- Spiced wine like a big, fruity red wine crossed with a spicy batch of apple cider, with a hit of spirit and a sprinkle of holiday magic. It’s wonderful.
What is Mulled Wine Called?
- Mulled wine goes by many names—spiced wine, hot wine, grogg, and vin chaud are a few I hear used interchangeably. As far as I know, they all essentially refer to the same drink.
The Best Mulled Wine Recipe
While I can’t state authoritatively that this is the most traditional mulled wine recipe (there seem to be as many variations of mulled wine as there are European cafés in which to sip them), I’ve made enough batches over the years to state with confidence that this is the best mulled wine recipe.
This spiced wine is piping hot, smells of cloves and cinnamon, and tastes of the childhood nights my sisters and I spent singing unsolicited Christmas carols to our neighbors and convincing my dad to light our wood-burning fireplace: cozy, welcome, and somehow familiar (I feel the same way about this delicious Healthy Hot Chocolate).
How Do You Make Mulled Wine?
Mulled wine will fill your home with the welcoming scent of citrus and warm spices. It’s is one of the most simple, warming, and satisfying drink recipes you can make.
- Red Wine. A dry and richly flavored red wine is perfect for this recipe.
- Apple Cider. Where most spiced wine recipes use sugar, I love using apple cider instead. It gives the hot wine a seasonal flavor that tastes just right for this time of year.
- Honey. A touch of sweetness.
- Orange. The orange might seem like an odd addition, but TRUST ME. A key to making the best spiced wine is balancing different notes of complementary flavors, and the orange helps do just that.
- Spices. I use cardamom, cinnamon sticks, and star anise for my mulled wine spices. Even if you don’t love anise (I’m not usually a fan myself), the flavor here is subtle, well balanced, and gives this spiced wine an extra note of flavor that you don’t want to miss.
- I don’t recommend ground spices, as they will float on top of the wine and not incorporate properly.
- Brandy. The final edge this spiced wine needs to reach its peak.
- Pour the wine into a large pot or slow cooker.
- Add WHOLE spices.
- Add apple cider.
- Add citrus.
- Simmer to allow the spices to infuse the wine with their warmth and the other ingredients to marry into a single, delicious drink.
- Add brandy.
What Wine is Best for Mulled Wine?
- The best wine for mulled wine is something dry and full bodied like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. These will stand up to the other flavors and ensure the spiced wine won’t be too sweet.
- You can be quite economical with spiced wine. Because of the added flavors, this is a good place to make use of a more budget-friendly bottle. Don’t choose the very bottom shelf, but you can save the super good stuff to enjoy on its own.
- If you aren’t a fan of red wine, you can also check out my recipe for White Spiced Wine.
This time of year, you’ll also see a lot of spiced wine brands selling pre-mixed spiced wine in bottles. Don’t do it. Bottled spiced wine has a tendency to be overly sweet, and its flavor artificially spiced and flat. Homemade mulled wine is so easy to make yourself and so superior, there’s no need to buy it premade.
How to Serve Mulled Wine
- Slow Cooker. While this recipe can easily be made on the stove, for parties I love making it a mulled wine crockpot recipe. The slow cooker keeps the stove top free and the spiced wine warm, and it’s easy for guests to access for refills.
- Stove Top. You can also let this recipe simmer on the stove in a big pot until it’s warm and all the flavors are thoroughly combined.
- To Serve. Slowly ladle the hot wine into fun glasses (I use these glasses, which make any warm drink feel extra festive). Garnish with a cinnamon stick and orange slice.
How to Store, Reheat, and Freeze Mulled Wine
- To Store. Let your slow cooker mulled wine cool completely, then pour it into an airtight storage container and place in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm mulled wine in a large pot on the stovetop over low heat, or pour leftovers into your slow cooker and reheat on LOW until warm.
- To Freeze. You can freeze mulled wine, then blend it up later to turn it into sorbet. First, you need to cook off all of the alcohol (bring your mulled wine to the boil, and keep it on a rolling boil for around 5 to 6 minutes so the mixture becomes syrupy and the alcohol burns off). Let the wine cool completely, then carefully pour leftovers into the cavities of an ice cube tray and place in the freezer. Pop the cubes into a food processor with full fat yogurt, then blend. You also can freeze the wine without cooking off the alcohol; it won’t freeze hard but can be used to make slushies.
- If you choose to reheat your leftover refrigerated mulled wine, be aware that the flavors may not be as vibrant as they are when it’s freshly made.
What to Serve with Mulled Wine
- Appetizers. Party-pleasing favorites like Cheese Fondue, Cream Cheese Ball, and Spinach Puffs would be tasty with this mulled wine.
- Desserts. Brown Butter Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies and Maple Pecan Blondies would make each sip even more cozy.
Recommended Tools for Making Mulled Wine
- Programmable Slow Cooker. This one switches to “keep warm” once the cooking time is done. For mulled wine, I set it to low or keep warm, depending upon the wine’s temperature.
- Ladle. The easiest way to serve your mulled wine.
Every sip of mulled wine makes me want to take a sleigh ride on a starlit night and then warm myself beside a fire in a quaint European café. On nights when the cold nips my neck and threatens to settle into my bones, nothing warms me to the core like this richly spiced, aromatic drink.
I hope this easy mulled wine recipe brings the same amount of merry to your holiday tradition as it does to ours.
- 750 ml red wine (1 bottle) — choose something fruity but not too sweet—Merlot, Zinfandel, or Cabernet Sauvignon all work well
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 orange zested and juiced
- 5 whole cloves
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 whole star anise
- 1/4 cup brandy
- Orange slices for garnish
- Cinnamon sticks for garnish
- Add wine, cider, honey, orange zest, and orange juice to a 3-quart or larger slow cooker. Stir to combine. Add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and star anise. Cook on low until warm, 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your slow cooker. Stir in the brandy.
- Ladle into mugs and serve with an orange slice and cinnamon sticks. To keep the wine warm, leave the slow cooker on the "Keep Warm" setting. If your slow cooker does not have a warm setting, alternate between "Low" and "Off."
- This recipe scales easily. Feel free to increase the batch size by as much as your slow cooker or pot will hold.
- TO MAKE ON THE STOVE: simmer the wine, apple cider, orange zest and juice, and spices in a large pot or Dutch oven the stove over low heat for 30 minutes, instead of heating in the slow cooker. Do not let the wine boil Add the brandy and serve.
- TO STORE: Let your slow cooker mulled wine cool completely, then pour it into an airtight storage container and place in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm mulled wine in a large pot on the stovetop over low heat, or pour leftovers into your slow cooker and reheat on LOW until warm.
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