‘Tis the season for warm, spiced beverages. As Julie R. Thomson so beautifully wrote for HuffPost, “Mulled wine not only warms your soul on the coldest of days with its perfect balance of spiced flavor, but it will warm your body too.”
Glühwein, Gløgg, Wassail — whatever you call it, mulled wine is the perfect beverage for cold weather.
The History of Mulled Wine
Mulled wine is as old as wine itself, and the practice to doctor it up with spices likely arose from necessity on several fronts. For one, wine was often safer to drink than water (read: healthier). Therefore, it was an everyday beverage of choice for any occasion or meal. Also, with limited technology, wine was not easy to preserve. The age-old trick of spicing things up to mask bad flavors and odors undoubtedly played a role in the invention and popularity of mulled wine.
The etymology of “mull” is to pulverize or reduce to powder (hence our word “meal” as in cornmeal), which makes sense in view of pulverizing hard spices like cloves and cinnamon. In the late 1600s, the meaning of the word transitioned to include the entire process of heating, sweetening and flavoring the wine.
The earliest mulled wine references are to “Ypocras,” possibly named for Hippocrates who may have either invented it or simply encouraged its consumption. In the mid-1500s, a mulled wine recipe actually appeared in a “good housekeeping” book in England.
To Have or Not to Have Mulled Wine
Today, some people shy away from mulled wine, thinking that most of it is made from cheap wine you couldn’t sell by the glass au naturel. While forms of mulled wine are available pre-made, especially versions of Gløgg, I’ve personally never met a mulled wine I didn’t like.
I hope you enjoy this mulled wine recipe, which comes courtesy of Matt Seiter of Feast Magazine.
Mulled Wine Recipe
- 1 orange
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar*
- 1 750-milliliter bottle red wine
- 6 oz aged liquor, such as bourbon**
- 2 star anise pods
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Using a vegetable peeler, remove skin from orange over the pot where you will mull wine. Peel skin into multiple strips. Place brown sugar in the pot and muddle, or firmly rub sugar granules over orange peels to release as much of the essential oil as possible. Place all other ingredients in pot and turn stovetop to medium. Allow mixture to reach a simmer (achieved when a candy thermometer roughly reads 175°F) but do not let it boil. Simmer for 15 minutes and remove from heat. Ladle wine into heatproof glasses or mugs and serve.
*If brown sugar is not your thing, try other sweeteners such as honey, agave nectar, orgeat syrup or white sugar in this recipe.
**For this recipe, I highly recommend using a spirit that’s been aged. Bourbon is an easy go-to, as is brandy or Cognac. For a more fruity character, I highly recommend using Calvados, an apple brandy from the Normandy region of France. Aged rum is a great substitute as well.