How to make Mulled Wine

How to Make Mulled Wine (Recipe, Best Wines to Use)

by Anthony Zhang

How do you make mulled wine? And, which wines are the best for this spiced drink?

Picture this - a warm hearth and the murmur of voices around you as you watch snowflakes dance past your window. A steaming mug of mulled wine is cupped in your hands, redolent with the scent of cinnamon and oranges! 

Mulled wine does remind you of Christmas and the joy of sharing, doesn’t it?

This perfect holiday drink is easier to make than you think, with so many possible variations. And, you can choose a variety of wines as well.

In this article, we’ll cover everything about mulled wine - its origins, How To Make It, how to serve and keep it, and the Best Wines To Use. 

Further reading

What is Mulled or Spiced Wine?

Mulled or Spiced Wine

Simply put, mulled wine is wine heated up with a selection of spices with a bit of honey or sugar to sweeten it. It’s also called hot wine or spiced wine.

But why add spices to something that already tastes good?

Mulling wine was originally done to mask the flavor of bad wine. Even today, you typically won’t use your best wines in a mulled wine recipe. 

Further reading:

A festive occasion coming up? Impress your guests with these joyful Champagnes! They are perfect as wine gifts as well.

Let’s look at how mulled wine came to be.

The Origins of Mulled Wine 

History and origins of mulled wine

One of the earliest mentions of spiced wine is in the biblical text, Song of Songs (Verse 8:2): “I would give you spiced wine to drink from the juice of my pomegranates.”

Here’s how spiced wine has evolved over different eras. 

  • The Ancient Greek Era: The ancient Greeks often spiced their wines as a medicinal drink. Homer’s Odyssey mentions the goddess Circe using a blend of wine and spices to drug Odyseuss’s crew.
  • The Roman Era: The heated version of spiced wine may have been created by the ancient Greeks, but the Romans popularized it. They introduced new spices like ginger and nutmeg into Europe. They used a wine recipe with honey and spices like black pepper and saffron as well.

Eventually, hot spiced wine travelled around the world with them. 

  • The Middle Ages: During the Middle Ages, it was a practice to add spices to heated wine to make it taste better and help prevent sickness. This mulled wine method was also used to salvage spoiled wine. 

A spiced mulled wine called “Hippocras” was made at this time. The name comes from a bag known as “the sleeve of Hippocrates,” used to strain the spiced wine. (This must’ve given rise to the tale that Hippocrates invented mulled wine!)

  • Victorian England: During the Victorian era, oriental spices like cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom were introduced to the mulled wine recipe. 

Now, mulled wine wasn’t always associated with Christmas, though it was a popular warm drink on chilly winter nights. This changed in 1853 when author Charles Dickens wrote about a version of it called Smoking Bishop, in his novel “A Christmas Carol!” And, the rest is history.

Read more: Before we move on, take a break by checking out how to make a peppy Mimosa and a lush Sangria!

Mulled Wine in Different Countries 

Mulled Wine in Different Countries 

Thanks to its journey around the world over the centuries, mulled wine has morphed into many regional variations.

In France, it’s called Vin Chaud, and the Italians know it as Vin Brule. In Germany, Christmas markets abound with Glühwein while Sweden drinks Glögg.The Greeks have Krasomelo, and the Turks put apricots in Sıcak Şarap

Further east, in China, you’ll find Hua Diao warmed with ginger and wolfberry.

That said, how do you make spiced wine or mulled wine?

How to Make Mulled Wine

How to Make Mulled Wine: Recipe

Here’s an easy mulled wine recipe you could try:

Recipe for Cider Mulled Red Wine  

Prep time: 5 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Serves: 6


  • 1 (750 ml) bottle of dry red wine
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 orange (slices or juice)
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup brandy (optional)


  1. Bring wine, apple cider, orange slices or juice, star anise pods, cloves, cinnamon sticks, honey and brandy to a boil in a large saucepan.
  2. Reduce heat to low and simmer until flavors are infused, for about 15 minutes. 
  3. Slowly ladle the wine into glasses and serve!

Of course, there are many variations of this mulled wine recipe you could experiment with.

A. Mulled wine recipe variations and alternative ingredients

Mulled wine recipe variations and alternative ingredients

Here are some alternative ingredients to personalize your mulled wine.

1. Switch up your base wine

If you don’t like red wine in your recipe, you can substitute it with white wine, tawny Port or even a dry, fruity cherry wine.

Read more: Here are the white wines we picked for you: Sauvignon BlancsRieslings.

2. Add some cider or fruit juice

Apple cider is a common recipe ingredient. You can also use pear cider or cranberry juice. 

3. Infuse the flavor of fruits

Oranges are a basic ingredient in a spiced wine recipe. You can include the orange zest or peel. You can also switch to, or add some of these: 

  • Lemon
  • Tangerines
  • Clementines
  • Apples
  • Peach
  • Cranberry

4. Spice-up your wine 

Apart from cinnamon, clove, and star anise the other mulling spice ingredients that you can add are:  

  • Cardamom pods
  • Nutmeg
  • Fennel 
  • Fresh ginger
  • Black peppercorns
  • Vanilla pod
  • Bay leaf
  • Allspice 

You can also substitute the cloves and star anise pods with chai tea bags. 

5. A little sweetness for balance 

If you’re using a dry wine in your recipe, you’ll want to balance out the flavor with some sweetness. Sugar or brown sugar are classic additions. Try these, or any extra sweetener you like for added taste: 

  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Agave nectar

6. Add liqueur for an extra zing! 

Heating the wine will burn off some of the alcohol, so a liqueur is commonly used to boost up the drink. Brandy is a common recipe addition, but you can add any favorite liqueur of yours or any of these alternatives:

  • Bourbon
  • Cognac
  • Cointreau
  • Rum
  • Orange liqueur
  • Port
  • Sherry

Further reading:

For the best red wine bottles, here’s a handpicked list of Malbec bottlesChianti wineChâteauneuf du Pape wines, and Barbera wines!

B. How to avoid the grainy bits in mulled wine

How to avoid the grainy bits in mulled wine

Many of these recipes require ground spices, but the powdered spices can end up floating on top, making your DIY wine grainy and gritty. 

How do you avoid this?

  • Use whole spices: Use whole spices in the recipe, and lightly toast them or heat them in a pan before adding the liquids. 

Toasting brings out the essential oils in the spices, adding subtler flavors to your mulled wine. You can strain out these large bits later on.

  • Use a cheesecloth: Place your mulling spices in a cheesecloth and tie it up with string. You can then use this to infuse your mulled wine just like a teabag.

You may wonder what kind of wine to use for mulled wine.

Which Wine is Best for Mulled Wine?

Best wine to make mulled wine

Red wine is the traditional choice for a mulled wine recipe, but there are white varieties of wines that work well too.

Here are some red wine varietals to go for:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: full-bodied, juicy 
  • Syrah (Shiraz): full-bodied and spicy
  • Grenache: a fruity, spicy red with high alcohol
  • Merlot: a fruity, medium-to-full bodied wine 
  • Malbec: rich and full-bodied with dark fruit flavors
  • Zinfandel

And if you want to try a mulled white wine recipe, here are some wine suggestions:

  • Riesling: a dry or sweet wine with floral and citrus flavors
  • Muscat (Moscato): a popular off-dry to sweet, aromatic white wine
  • Chenin Blanc: medium-to-light bodied, floral, and honeyed
  • Chardonnay: lush, fruity, and buttery
  • Viognier: aromatic with tropical fruit

But remember, you don’t need to splurge on an expensive wine bottle. A white or red blend may also be cheaper than single varietals.

If you use a pricey bottle of Pinot Noir, you won’t be doing justice to its nuanced taste, as the wine spices will overwhelm all the flavors anyway.

Getting a budget-friendly bottle will also help keep your costs reasonable if you plan to make large batches of hot spiced wine. 

Here are some more tips to help you choose the right red wine.

What to look for in wine to make mulled wine

what to look for in wine to make mulled wine

There are four things you should keep in mind.

1. Fruit-forward flavors

The added spices and fruits in a mulled wine recipe will complement the wine’s fruitiness. 

2. High alcohol levels

Alcohol will burn off when the white or red wine is heated, so there will be little to none left once done. Using a wine with a high alcohol content will compensate for the alcohol that evaporates. 

3. High in tannins

Tannins are what creates a drying sensation in your mouth, like black tea. It’s great to have in mulled wine, adding flavor and firmness to the drink.

4. Produced in warmer climates

Look for a wine from a warm climate. These tend to be fruit-forward, high in alcohol, with lots of tannins — so you’re covered. Think California or sunny Tuscany! 

So, homemade mulled wine is super-easy to make, right? 

Now, how do you serve it and keep it warm? 

Serving Mulled Wine and Keeping It Warm

Using a wine glass to serve mulled wine isn’t a very good idea. Here’s what you should do.

A. How to serve mulled wine 

how to serve mulled wine 

Serve mulled wine in heatproof mugs. This protects your hands from the heat of the hot spiced wine, and a handle makes it easier to drink. 

Heatproof glasses are also a good option for presentation, as you can see the color of the wine and all the optional garnishes. 

B. Garnish for some added flair

Garnish for some added flair

What’s mulled wine without a little garnish?

  • Add a cinnamon stick, and make sure it’s not submerged in the drink.
  • Drop in an orange slice, bits of orange peel, citrus peel or citrus slices.
  • Add a whole spice like star anise (besides the flavors, its shape is very attractive as well.)
  • Add a dash of color with cherries, fresh cranberries, or any other bright berry.
  • Stud an orange peel with cloves and attach it to the glass brim.

Just make sure you don’t put too much of your favorite garnishes that your guest has difficulty drinking! 

C. Keeping mulled wine warm

Keeping mulled wine warm

How can you keep unserved mulled wine warm? 

  • Use a crock pot or slow cooker: Make the mulled wine in a slow cooker. Slow cooker mulled wine stays warm for a long time and makes it easy for you to refill from the same vessel.
  • Simmer on a stovetop: Keep mulled wine simmering on a stovetop in a large pot until ready for serving.
  • Reheat: If you made it too early, you could warm it up again at low to medium heat. Just make sure not to boil it, or the flavor of the heated wine will be affected. Keep in mind that you’ll lose a bit more of the alcohol with reheating. 
  • Keep it in a thermos: If you have a large thermos, you can keep the mulled wine warm all evening. 

Mulled wine is delicious on its own, but what foods can go with it?

Food to Serve with Mulled Wine

Food to Serve with Mulled Wine

Mulled wine is full of spicy flavors. Here are some suggestions to pair it with:

  • Sweet mince pies
  • Cheese fondue or cream cheese balls
  • Cheeses like blue cheese, gorgonzola, or aged cheddar 
  • Saffron buns
  • Ginger biscuits

What To Do with Leftover Mulled Wine

What to Do with Leftover Mulled Wine

You have some leftover mulled wine. What can you do with it?

1. Store it 

Let the mulled wine cool completely. Pour it into an airtight container and stow it in the refrigerator. It can last up to 3 days.

2. Reheat after storing

To have the mulled wine that was stored, just reheat on the stovetop, or pour into a slow cooker. Use low heat until it’s warm. 

3. Turn it into a frozen dessert

Turn the mulled wine into a delicious sorbet or a slushy.

To make sorbet: 

  • Cook-off all the alcohol by letting the mulled wine boil for 5-6 minutes, until the mixture becomes syrupy. 
  • After the wine cools, pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.
  • Add the hardened cubes into a food processor with full-fat yogurt and blend. 

To make a slushy:

  • Pour the wine into an ice cube tray and freeze until firm for at least 4 hours. 
  • Place the cubes in a food processor and blend to a slushy consistency.‍

Apart from mulled wine, what other wine-based drinks can you serve at a holiday party?

More Wine-based Festive Drinks 

Here are some more ideas for drink recipes for the festive season ahead.

1. Sangria


Nothing like a cool fruit-filled sangria to ring in the festive season, right? Use a medium-bodied red wine like Merlot, Grenache, Barbera, or Zinfandel for this drink. 

2. Kir Royale

Repurpose mulled wine by making a Kir Royale cocktail

If you have a bottle of sparkling wine and some Crème de Cassis lying about, you can make Kir Royale. A Spanish Cava or a dry Italian Prosecco are good options for this cocktail.

Read more: The best Rose wines perfect for a summery brunch!

3. Mimosa 


If you still have more of that sparkling wine lying around and some orange juice, make a Mimosa. Just mix equal parts of each, and you have it! 

4. Wine Spritzer

Wine Spritzer

The best wine spritzers have a well-balanced sweetness, bitterness, acidity, and carbonation. A dessert wine like Port or aromatized wine like Vermouth works well. 

5. Kalimotxo


Kalimotxo, pronounced as “Kali-mo-cho,” is a Basque-country classic. This drink recipe is simply a mix of red wine and cola. Use a Spanish wine like Garnacha, Tempranillo, or Monastrell (Mourvedre).

Christmas is just around the corner! Besides making mulled wine, why not stock up your cellar with some delicious wines for the season and beyond

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Time to Stock Up Your Wine Cellar!

Time to Stock Up Your Wine Cellar to make more Mulled Wine

Apart from being a Christmas tradition, mulled wine is simply a great way to turn your table wine into something delicious. It’s so easy to make and you can easily customize the recipe for large or small groups. 

Those spices will also make your home smell like an amazing potpourri!

So, get ready to spice-up the holiday season!

While you’re at it, pick up some delicious wines through Vinovest. Sign up today to get started!

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