There's a long tradition of fortifying wine with honey and aromatic spices, especially in wintertime. And while most modern recipes for mulled wine call for sugar, you make this mulled wine with honey instead. Honey gives the wine a lovely, mild sweetness with floral undertones that complement the flavor of sweet spices such as star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon.
What is Mulled Wine?
Mulled wine is wine that has been fortified with spices, herbs, fruit and fruit juices, hard alcohol and sweeteners, or any combination of those ingredients. You simmer it long enough to allow the spices to infuse the wine with their aroma and flavor before you ladle it into mugs and serve it hot - about the temperature of tea or coffee.
It's an intensely warming drink, and so is often a welcome addition to the table during the winter holidays. As there's so many variations of mulled wine, you'll find it by other names such as gluhwein, glogg, vin chaud, izvar, forralt, or even Christmas wine since it's often served around Christmas.
How do you make mulled wine with honey?
To make mulled wine, you warm wine with spices and other ingredients like hard alcohol. Start by stirring wine, brandy, and honey together and then toss in spices, allowing them to warm over low, slow heat.
Unlike Cranberry Cider or Mulled Cider, in which you bring the cranberry juice and cider to a simmer and then turn the heat down, you'll need to warm the wine and honey together over low heat. That way you'll avoid burning off the alcohol at high temperatures.
Herbs and Spices
Carminative herbs, those that help support digestion, are used in making mulled wine. They have bright, warming flavors that complement the robust flavor of wine well. You'll also find them in other winter drinks like traditional wassail.
- Cardamom is a green pod related to ginger, and its ginger-like flavor works well brings a bright, warming quality to the wine.
- Black Pepper is traditionally used to support digestion.
- Cloves have a sweet richness, and you'll often find them used in holiday baked goods.
- Nutmeg has a sweet-spicy aroma.
- Cinnamon is traditionally used to support both digestion and blood sugar management.
- Anise tastes like licorice, and it soothes indigestion - a big help for heavy winter meals.
- Fennel tastes similar to anise, only softer and sweeter. It soothes indigestion, bloating and gassiness.
- Bay gives an herbal quality to the mulled wine, and it also pairs well with honey and black pepper.
Where to find organic herbs and spices
You can find many fresh herbs at your local grocery store; however, medicinal herbs can be harder to find locally. We recommend Starwest Botanicals because they stock a wide assortment of organic and ethically wildcrafted culinary and medicinal herbs.
Tips for Making Mulled Wine
Making mulled wine is straightforward and easy. If you can warm up a pot of tea, you can make mulled wine. But, to make really great mulled wine, you'll need to pay attention to a few tips. Like how to choose your wine, which spices to use, and how to manage your temperature effectively.
- Choose good-quality wine. While it's tempting to grab a cheap bottle (you'll be adding stuff to it anyway!), stick with a good-quality wine. Your mulled wine can only be as good as what goes into it, after all.
- Medium- to full-bodied reds work best. And wines with notes of dark fruit and berries work exceptionally well. Zinfandel is a great option.
- Keep your temperature low. If you let your wine steam or come to a boil, you'll burn off the alcohol.
- Use less honey than you would sugar. Honey is slightly sweeter than honey, so use less than you might otherwise use.
- Strain your spices. You can tuck your spices into a muslin bag, or through a fine-mesh strainer before serving.
- Adjust your recipe! Mulled wine is flexible and easy to make. Swap brandy for amaretto or bourbon. Swirl in some fresh ginger. While some recipes require precision, this recipe benefits from your creativity and intuition.