A steaming hot mug of spiced red wine is synonymous with winter festivities. Just like decorated Christmas trees and Advent wreaths, mulled wine is a deeply rooted German tradition that is now enjoyed around the world. Since the 15th century, annual Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmarkt) have been at the heart of the holiday celebration in Germany – lighting up the historic town centers in every major German city. Vendors set up colorful stalls to sell arts and crafts, local foods, and ceramic mugs of mulled wine. The German name for mulled wine, Glühwein, translates to “glow wine,” and there’s nothing better than this traditional drink to make you glow with warmth on a cold night.
Many German winegrowers offer pre-mulled bottles for sale locally, but for those celebrating the holidays outside of Germany, you can easily make your own at home! Characterized by the perfect balance of red fruit and spice, German Pinot Noir is well suited for the festive drink – By warming the wine, the red berry aromas become even more expressive and are wonderfully harmonious with the spices and other ingredients. Choosing Spätburgunder as the base means you only need the minimum flavoring ingredients to make a magical brew.
You’ll need one bottle (standard 750 ml) of fruit-forward red wine (German Pinot Noir is our pick), cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, some sugar, and an orange. From there, the recipe can vary according to how sweet or spicy you want to make your masterpiece!
- 1 bottle German Pinot Noir
- 1 medium orange, sliced
- 3-4 cinnamon sticks (3 inches)
- 8-10 whole cloves
- 6 whole star anise
- 4-6 tablespoons sugar or honey (or more, to taste)
- Additional star anise, cinnamon sticks, and orange slices for garnish
Get creative! It’s the holidays, so indulge in your favorites from the below.
- 1 medium lemon, sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- For a lighter drink: 3/4 cup water, orange juice, or apple juice
- For a stronger drink: 3/4 cup brandy
- Pour the wine into a large stovetop saucepan, adding sugar/honey and thinly sliced orange. If desired, add ground nutmeg, lemon slices, water, juice, and/or brandy.
- Place whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, and star anise (plus allspice and peppercorns, if desired) in a square of cheesecloth, and tie closed with string. If cheesecloth is unavailable, the spices can be added loose and strained out later.
- Heat slowly on the stove, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the mixture to boil. The longer you heat the wine, the more the fruit and spices will steep into the wine. 20-30 minutes is standard.
- Remove the bundle of spices, or strain to remove loose spices.
- Serve hot in mugs, garnishing with an orange slice, a cinnamon stick, and a star anise.
Tips for making mulled wine
When warming the mulled wine, stir often and make sure not to let it come to a boil. If this happens, the delicate fruit aromas will be lost, alcohol will evaporate (at 173°F), and the drink becomes bitter.
While the spices can vary based on recipe or personal preference, there are key rules of thumb. Avoid adding too many spices all at once, and mix in spices only in small quantities. Too many spices spoil the mulled wine by overwhelming the fruity aromas of the wine. Finally, sweeten cautiously.
Make sure to use fresh spices and a quality wine.
Let the wine steep long enough for the aromas to fully unfold. Some recipes call for at least 20 minutes over heat. Other recipes may instruct steeping the mulled wine mix over low heat for hours, or even overnight.