Mulled Wine Recipe – A Christmas Tradition in Germany and Austria
Gluhwein or mulled wine recipe is incredibly easy to make on the stovetop or in a slow cooker and is undeniably cozy and delicious.
Mulled wine or Gluhwein is a time tested tradition in Germany –it is offered almost everywhere during the Christmas season at the various Christmas Markets across Germany and Austria. While shopping and socializing, a warm glass of Gluhwein, a red wine beverage flavored with holiday spices and orange are offered at nearly all the stalls to keep people warm during their brisk stroll on a crisp wintery day.
A popular holiday beverage, it is also a regular on many café menus and is naturally enjoyed at home too. Thus, this Christmas, I’m bringing a little German tradition into my home for our get-together with family and friends. What a perfect way to warm up my guests as they arrive from the freezing cold –a gently sweet, delicately spiced and warmly heated wine to wind down with cheese, bread, and other appetizers before our main course.
What is the origin of mulled wine?
Since antiquity, herbs and spices have always been an important part of the preparation of unique alcoholic beverages. They’ve been added to wines, beers, and other drinks as flavorings agents and preservatives. In some cases, medicated beverages, made from herbs and spices, were concocted for their remedial properties or medicinal benefits. For example, Helleborated wine was consumed for epilepsy, wine of squills for evacuating ‘evil humours’ and zedoary wine for strengthening the stomach and heart. These were all official medical treatments in the pharmacopeias of the seventeenth century.
The most interesting of all the old digestive drinks was cordial wine know as hippocras or vinum hippocraticum by the Greeks, or what we now call mulled wine. Not wanting to waste any food or alcohol, they would dump spices into the wine and heat it up to be enjoyed later.
Not to be outdone by the Greeks, the Romans have their own version of mulled wine called Conditum Paradoxum. After a feast, they would heat their leftover wine with a blend of spices and sugar or honey to have no food be of waste, and also to arm their bodies against the cold winter. As the Romans conquered much of Europe throughout the next century, the popularity of their mulled wine spread across the empire and regions they traded with.
Through time, more alternative recipes were developed along with many recipe books; collectively named glögg. Many years later, in the 1890s, glögg became associated with Christmas as every wine merchant across the country developed their own unique mulled wine recipe which was distributed throughout Europe in unique bottles usually depicting Santa Clause. To this day, mulled wine continues to be a Christmas tradition alongside its sister drink, mulled cider, which is just as delightful and easy to make.
How to make the best mulled wine?
To make the best mulled wine recipe that caters to your own unique palate, here are a few spices to consider and experiment with:
Wine. The main ingredient, and also the most important. You can use either red or white wine, but traditionally, it is made with inexpensive red wine. Use Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot if you want a more full-bodied mulled wine.
Liquor. This is optional, but to give more dimension to your mulled wine, toss in a little brandy. However, feel free to use any of your favorite liquor: vodka, bourbon, cognac, rum or brandy.
Citrus. Oranges are the classic addition to mulled wine, but feel free to include clementines, lemons, limes or both.
Fruit. To give it some berry notes, add some fresh cranberries, blackberries or both.
Spices. Although it differs from region to region, these are the three must-have spices in any warm and toasty mulled wine recipes (according to my preference): whole cloves, nutmeg, and whole cinnamon sticks. Or you can just experiment and add whatever you have on hand: star anise, cardamom pods, whole cloves, whole nutmeg, bay leaf, vanilla bean, and whole cinnamon sticks. Just be sure to remove all spices before serving.
Sweetener. I used cane sugar, but you can use whatever you have in your cabinet: maple syrup, brown sugar, granulated sugar, or honey. Of course, you can also just skip the sugar if you want.
Some important notes to consider:
- The key to maintaining alcohol in your mulled wine recipe is to avoid boiling it for prolonged periods of time. A few seconds of boiling will not boil away all the alcohol, however, it’s best to keep it at a low simmer. The idea is to get the wine warm enough so that all the spices and fruit can infuse into the wine, but not so warm that it starts to get into a rolling boil.
- Resist the urge to heat on high, keep it LOW until hot. It will take about an hour for the mulled wine to get hot.
- Reduce heat to your lowest possible setting and serve warm. The flavor of mulled wine actually improves as it sits; the flavors mellow and the spices continue to permeate the whole house, creating an inviting Christmas scent.
And finally, ENJOY! Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday to all!
Mulled Wine Recipe
- 1 red wine, 750 ml
- 1 large orange, sliced
- 1 lemon, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 cup cane sugar
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 nutmeg
- 1 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 whole all spice
- 1 bay leaf
- 3/4 cup water
- cranberries, optional
- Combine ingredients. Add 1/2 the bottle of wine, orange slices, lemon slices, sugar, whole cloves, whole nutmeg, cinnamon stick, star anise, allspice, bay leaf, and water to a large saucepan. Stir briefly to combine.
- Simmer. Cook the mulled wine on medium-low heat until it just barely reaches a simmer. If you don't want the alcohol to boil off, avoid letting it bubble. Let the wine simmer for half an hour. Add in the remaining red wine. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let the wine simmer for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.Optional: If you want to add your liquor of choice, add 1/2 cup along with the remaining red wine.
- Strain. Using a fine-mesh strainer, remove all solid ingredients. Give the mulled wine a taste, and stir in extra sweetener if needed.
- Serve. Serve warm, topped with your favorite garnishes.