We Need to Talk... About Mulled Wine!

We Need to Talk... About Mulled Wine!

Why the winter classic was forbidden in former times, and what you should pay attention to

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Yes, Christmas is only two more panicked, last-minute purchases away but, hopefully, you’ve been otherwise enjoying the season to the fullest. Maybe you’ve met friends at a Christmas market—and surely, two or three (or more) glasses of mulled wine were involved, right?

After all, drinking mulled wine at the Christmas market has become a kind of obligatory event nowadays—whether you like it or not.

But there’s a fine line between it being winter’s best warmer or sickly-sweet swill (something that becomes particularly noticeable the next day). But yet, you do not want to miss this beloved Christmas tradition. To save you, here’s the secret to really good mulled wine and exactly what to watch out for!

A travel through time: Where does the mulled wine actually come from?

It is believed to date back to ancient Rome (of course, when it comes to wine and riotous pleasure, the Romans are never far away). Back then, wine was often flavored with all sorts of spices and sugar to make it last longer, but also to make it more enjoyable.

However, German winemaker Rudolf Kunzmann bottled and commercialized mulled wine in winter of 1956—and promptly paid, rather than earned, a hefty price. Back in the days, the addition of sugar was strictly prohibited by wine law. Fortunately, the legal situation changed quite quickly—and the once-forbidden tipple rapidly became a cult drink for Christmas season.

How to make perfect mulled wine at home

If I've learned one thing over the last couple of years, it’s never to buy ready-to-drink mulled wine, no matter how fancy the bottle might look. Homemade mulled wine is always the right choice—but only if you keep these 5 rules in mind.

1. Choose a suitable wine

Bold, high quality wines with very fruity aromas are the best choice for mulled wine. When heating up, flavors reminiscent of cherries and currants for example, will come out particularly well. We recommend something like a pinot noir, merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, or Montepulciano.

2. Be careful with the amount of spices

No spices, no mulled wine! Cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and orange peel are a necessity. Depending on your personal taste, cardamom, juniper berries, allspice, and bay leaves can also be added. However, “the more the better" does not apply here. Too many spices can quickly cover all the fruitiness of the wine.

If you are not sure about the right amounts, just take a look at the instructions for our homemade mulled wine spice!

3. Use sugar and honey sparingly

Be careful with adding sugar or honey! Not only for the fact that your mulled wine can quickly turn sickly sweet, sugar (especially in combination with heat) will help your body to absorb the alcohol extra quickly—and next day's headache will be unstoppable that way.

If you like it sweet, choose a sweeter wine as a base, so you don’t have to add too much sugar. After all, it's of course a matter of personal taste.

4. Pay attention to the ideal temperature

Make sure to heat up your mulled wine to maximum 78°C/172°F, otherwise the alcohol will evaporate—and that’s something we really don’t want to risk. In addition to that, bitter compounds can arise that will affect the taste for the worse.

5. Give it some time

In order to unfold its full flavor, wine and spice should simmer for at least 15 to 20 minutes on low heat. The German Wine Institute even recommends that the mulled wine should sit for several hours after heating up, at best overnight.

Now you’re familiar with the most important rules, try out our recipe for homemade mulled wine!

Warming mulled wine

Warming mulled wine
Go to recipe

By the way: If you want to make mulled wine yourself, but also don’t want to miss the Christmas market flair: In this article, my fellow editor Julia shows you how to organize your very own Christmas market at home!

More mulled wine variations for every taste

Besides the red-wine based classic, there are countless delicious options to step up your mulled wine game. These are our 5 favorites:

1. A milder version: White mulled wine

Another essential hot beverage that you’ll get at every Christmas market! A bit milder and less sweet, white mulled wine is the perfect choice for those who don’t like the classic version.

2. Mulled wine laced with liquor

The additional shot not only provides an extra alcoholic content but above all, a more intense flavor. Depending on your taste, you can choose between Amaretto, rum, whiskey, and orange liqueur, for example.

3. Some like it hot: Mulled gin

Gin it is! In the last couple of years, the popular distilled spirit has made its way into the hearts of many Christmas fans. Instead of wine, this version is prepared with gin and a juice of your choice, for example apple, cranberry, or grapefruit juice. Add some citrus flavor, spices, and even herbs like rosemary, heat it up—and your festive winter cocktail is ready to spread joy!

4. A fruity highlight: Baked apple mulled white wine

Less common and yet an absolute highlight for the Christmas season is a homemade baked-apple flavored mulled wine, consisting of white wine, cloudy apple juice, cinnamon, star anise, and a little bit of honey—not too sweet and immediately reminiscent of warm apple strudel!

5. Glogg: Scandinavian mulled wine

Although the traditional Swedish punch doesn’t differ too much from mulled wine, but for the Scandinavian version, a dash of rum, vodka, or corn schnapps is mandatory—and sometimes the wine is omitted entirely in favor of the harder stuff.

Red or white? With or without a dash of liquor? Would you rather go for store-bought mulled wine or are you team homemade? Let us know in the comments or upload your own mulled wine recipe!

Published on December 22, 2019

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