Monday, June 27, 2011

Mulled Wine Recipe

Jen asked for my mulled wine recipe, mentioned in passing in my winter festival post.
Spicy aromas of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg wafting from mugs of hot wine, hands clasped around mugs to warm them, cold winter air and warm fire: there is something about mulled wine / gluhwein / vin chaud that evokes the best part of winter, a comfort blanket for your taste buds. Certainly at our last winter festival it went down very well, the pot drained dry in no time, leaving me making a note to double the quantities next year.

It’s more of a method than a recipe. I do most of it to taste, so don’t have exact quantities for everything, but that’s half the fun of it: tasting a sip now and then as it brews, the spices getting headier with the warmth, adjusting the sugar quantities, so that the acid edge is softened but without it getting sickly sweet and cloying.

Choose a red wine that is drinkable for a start. This isn’t a way of disguising a disgusting plonk, but rather a way of adding to a good well bodied wine. Having said that there is no point using a fine wine of complex structure and subtle notes either. Strong wines aged in oak and full of tannin tend to  challenge the spices with too much of their own personality. So the best I’ve found is a simple but medium bodied claret, affordable but not dirt cheap. Here in South Africa I use the Drostdy-Hof Claret Select which now comes in boxes, making it affordable enough for our large gatherings.

4 litres red wine
2 oranges
20 - 30 whole cloves
3-4 sticks cinnamon
½ a nutmeg grated finely

Decant the wine into a large pot. Press the cloves into the skin of the oranges so they are studded on both sides. Cut the oranges in half and float them in the wine. Add the cinnamon sticks and grated nutmeg.

The sugar needs to be added to taste, so start with about a cup and taste again when that has warmed and dissolved. The idea is to take the sharpness from the edge of the wine, but not to get too sickly sweet. Always start with less sugar and add a bit more once the wine has warmed until you’ve got the right balance.

Warm the wine over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. Bring it to a point where it is steaming and a few small bubbles are breaking the surface. DON’T LET IT BOIL or all the alcohol will evaporate! Keep it gently steaming over a low heat for about an hour to draw out the flavour of the spices.

Taste the wine every now and again and add a little more sugar if necessary or a little more spice. The spice will mellow and develop as the wine mulls, so expect the flavour to improve and deepen over the time it is brewing.

I don’t add anything else. Some other recipes do add fruit juice and brandy, but I like the simplicity of this with just a little fruit note added by the oranges and the warm aroma of spices lifting the spirits. Ladle into mugs and sip steadily before it cools.


  1. We were recently in Carcassonne France; although it was summer, it was rainy and hailed. We had fun eating at a restaurant that served only medieval food, they should have used your recipe for mulled wine.

    Thank you for the lovely comment on our blog. My mother-in-law was touched.

  2. Hi Kit,

    Am really happy to see your post. Thank you for sharing your recipe so generously. I can't wait to try it out! Am anticipating the taste of it.


  3. I have a funny mulled wine story. Bear and I were members of an Irish 5th century re-enactment group that held regular yearly camping events. We made our own clothes, our own housing, and weapons, jewelry, etc. Mulled wine was one of the favorite bevvies during our autumn event. I had been imbibing a few mugs of said mulled wine, and found that everyone was gathered around me, talking and laughing. Laughing a lot. Bear took one look at me and broke out in giggles. Apparently the cheap red wine they used had stained my lips, tongue, AND TEETH a brilliant purple. I was the comedy show for the night, but didn't know it! 8-)

  4. Really lovely post and pics, Kit. Makes me want to glug a litre of the stuff right away.


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!