Everything you need to know about mulled wine

Dec 9, 2021

Sharing dark secrets, luxurious mince pies and a glass of warm spiced mulled wine with friends or your significant other is guaranteed to slip you into the festive mood.

But how much do you really know about this indulgent Christmas drink? Before you reach for your first glass this year, find out a little more about this festive beverage, including where it comes from and how to make it yourself.


What is mulled wine?

Mulled wine is traditionally a warm, red wine-based drink that goes hand in hand with the mischief of Christmas. It is typically served throughout December and is made of red wine, spices and citrus peel that are heated together to create a rich, indulgent winter nectar.


The history of mulled wine

Mulled wine dates back to the 2nd century when it was invented by the Romans to warm themselves up during cold winter months.

Word spread across Europe of this warming treat and spices started to be added for their apparent health benefits.

This new spicy blend became particularly popular in Sweden, where different variations became known as glӧgg. But it wasn’t until the 1890s that mulled wine became a Christmas tradition.

At this time, unique recipes were bottled with Santa on the label and shipped across Europe. That revived the traditions of a winter warmer and firmly established it as the festive drink we know and love today. While we know it as mulled wine, in France it is called vin chaud and in Germany it’s known as gluhwein.

Fast forward to the 21st century and there is now a wide range of variations — including swapping out the red wine to create a mulled white wine. Sometimes wine is left out completely with the introduction of mulled gin recipes and mulled cider.

Mulled wine recipes

As alluring as it is to warm your hands and sip this festive drink while wandering around a Christmas market, you can’t beat a glass of homemade mulled wine while curled up on the sofa with your date for the evening. If you haven’t made it yourself before here is a mulled wine recipe that’s easy to follow from BBC Good Food.


Mulled wine ingredients:

  • Red wine (½ bottle)
  • Brown sugar (50g)
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Cloves (x2)
  • Star anise (x2)
  • One orange
  • One lemon
  • Splash of brandy or port (optional) 


Slow cooker mulled wine recipe:

  1. Slice the orange and lemon and add to the red wine along with the brown sugar, the star anise, the cloves and the cinnamon stick.

  2. Pour it all into the slow cooker and leave it on low for at least one to two hours, until warm. (You can leave it in here until you are ready to drink, ensuring it is the perfect temperature whenever you take your first sip.)

  3.  Add orange peel to garnish and then pour and enjoy!

This is a mulled wine recipe for a slow cooker but, if you don’t have one, you can simply add all the ingredients to a saucepan and leave it to simmer (without boiling) for about eight minutes.

If you have the choice of either — and have the time to wait for it — choose the slow cooker mulled wine as it helps to ignite the flavours of the wine and spices. It will also fill your home with an inviting Christmassy scent.

Tip: Speed up the process or cut down the list of ingredients with mulled wine sachets, which contain all your spices. Simply add the mix to the red wine and sugar. You can also add a mulled wine syrup, if you wish.


Best wine for mulled wine

The mulled wine spices can be strong, so you want to choose a bold, full-bodied wine instead of one with delicate flavours. So, forget the Pinot Noir or Merlot — a Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the best reds for mulled wine. Apothic Cab is deliciously smooth, with plush tannins. Its notes of dark fruit and layered aromas of vanilla perfectly compliment the traditional spices in mulled wine.

Another alternative would be a red wine blend as the combination of different grape varieties will add depth and complexity. Apothic Red indulges the senses with notes of black cherry, vanilla, mocha and a hint of mischief, all with alluring intensity and a luscious texture. The sweeter tones from the Zinfandel grapes in the blend stands up to the earthy mulled spices for a match made in heaven.

Non-alcoholic mulled wine recipe

If you’re looking for something less mischievous, there are non-alcoholic options too —  here's how to make mulled wine without the need for a bottle of red.

You simply need to swap out the alcohol for several alternatives that can be added in its place. Such as: Apple juice (250ml) and pomegranate juice (500ml) plus a handful of blackberries as laid out in this BBC Good Food recipe.

So, during the dark, cold winter nights, indulge your senses, light up your palate and sip on a warm glass of mulled wine to complement your unforgettable evening.