Heady and Aromatic: Mulled Wine for the Holidays

Mulled Wine Recipe

As the cold of winter sets in, I want for warmth and for companionship.  It’s this time of year that we bring friends to our kitchen table a little more often, sharing with them sweet things from the kitchen: homemade cookies, sugarplums, turron de navidad, gingerbread men and we wash it down with sweet and spicy mulled wine for the grown ups and warm milk spiked with molasses and nutmeg for the little ones.  (You can see more of my favorite holiday treats here.)

It’s these treats, these little traditions that bring us home in the holidays – allowing us to celebrate tradition, warmth, and friendship with one another during the darkest and coldest days of the year. I grew up in my mother’s  kitchen, and during the holidays – Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas and New Year, she always kept a heady brew of wine, cider and sweet spices warming on the backburner of the stove.  The sweet, spiced wine, always a complex but light red, released its aroma of fragrant cinnamon and clove into our home – a welcoming perfume that greeted guests as they entered our home.  I continue the tradition in my home every holiday season.

Making Mulled Wine: A Sweet and Heady Tradition

There exists a long tradition of warming wine and fortifying it with fragrant, sweet spices, particularly during winter months, and as ancient Romans conquered much of Europe, they brought with them the traditions of viticulture.  Throughout western Europe, you find variations on mulled wine: glogg in Nordic nations often features bitter orange, cardamom and vodka; vin chaud in France features lemon; Hungarian forralt combines wine with spices and amaretto, while Moldovan izvar combines wine with honey and black pepper.

For my part, I make a mulled wine that appeals to me – more complex, sweeter and stronger than the one I grew up with.  I start first with an inexpensive, but simple and delicious pinot noir.  Mulled wine is traditionally made with claret, but I favor pinot noir for its vivacious flavors, and its bright notes of cherry.  From there, I pour in honey, brandy and sweet apple cider and toss in a satchel of sweet spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and cloves.  I let it warm over low heat for an hour or two before its ready, taking care not to simmer or boil the mulled wine lest I cook out both the flavor and alcohol.  When the guests begin to arrive, I ladle the mulled wine into mugs, and serve it with a slice of fresh orange.

Mulled Wine

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 60 minutes

Yield: about 11 cups

Serving Size: serves 10 to 12

Mulled Wine

Sweet, spiced and heady, mulled wine is a fortifying beverage into wintertime one that always reminds me of the holidays and of companionship and cheer. Mulled wine is strong, simple to prepare and a delightful treat for holiday revelers that enter your home for a bit of joy come wintertime.


  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 small nutmeg pod
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 6 cups sweet apple cider
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1 cup honey or whole, unrefined cane sugar
  • 2 oranges


  1. Cut a square of cheesecloth about 12 inches square. Arrange the spices in the center of the of the square, and tie it into a bundle with 100% cotton cooking twine. Place it in a nonreactive stock pot. Pour the wine, cider and brandy into the pot, and stir in the honey or sugar. Slice one orange in rounds, and drop it into the pot. Toss in the bay leaves.
  2. Warm over low heat at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to come together, taking care not to allow the wine to boil lest you cook out the alcohol. Slice the remaining orange into thing wedges. Ladle the mulled wine into mugs, slip a slice of orange into the mug, and serve warm.

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What people are saying

  1. Diane says

    Why does one need sweet apple cider when the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar as well? This recipe sounds so good, but I worry about how sweet it might be.

    • Jenny says

      Well … mulled wine is supposed to be sweet. If it concerns you, an easy solution would be to add sweetener to taste.

  2. says

    Thanks so much for this! I was looking for a mulled wine recipe for the holidays. Love how simple the recipe is…but those flavors look like they’re complex :)

  3. Skye says

    Drinking it now and this is amaaaaaaaazing! I put half a cup of honey instead of the full cup, and I’m finding that level of sweetness is better for me (I’m not a huge sweet tooth) – it’s still quite sweet!

    Thanks, Jenny!

  4. Adrienne says

    This recipe looks lovely – bay leaves are mentioned but not listed with the ingredients. How many would you suggest?
    I would like to make a batch soon !

    • Jenny says

      Alcohol is central to the recipe, so I wouldn’t recommend making adjustments. You could look for a mulled apple juice, though.

  5. cindi says

    Sounds delicious! I might give this a go in the slowcooker. I’m guessing it may take a few hours for the spices to infuse vice the hour on the stovetop…any thoughts?

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