This is the time to enjoy plenty of Glühwein and Lebkuchen. If you have ever been to a Christmas market in Germany, you will know what I mean. Unfortunately, this year we will not be able to have a sip while visiting a Christmas market, with almost all of them already cancelled across Germany and other European countries. Thankfully, making mulled wine at home is easier than you might think.
All you need to make your own classic German mulled wine at home is a good quality (yet not over the top) wine, different spices, oranges and/or apples. In addition, some recipes also call for a bit of apple cider, honey and brandy or rum.
And the good news is, you do not need to stop here.
Mulled wine is a winter staple not only in Germany. During the cold months it is served across many other countries in Europe too, and each one has its own traditional recipe.
Read on to learn more about mulled wine, how to make it and get different recipes from around Europe.
The history of mulled wine
The origin of mulled wine goes back to ancient times. At the time, wine was flavoured with sugar and spices to make it more pleasurable and to help to preserve it for longer.
In fact, there is a recipe written down by Apicius, who is believed to have been a Roman gourmet and lover of luxury. He is said to have authored the Roman cookbook Apicius, even though there is no proof to that. The recipe dates back to around 30 BC and it is quite similar to today’s traditional mulled wine recipe. It features cinnamon, laurel, star anise, coriander, and thyme as well as a big portion of honey.
Later in the Middle Age, wine mixed with spice was said to have healing abilities. It was however limited to the wealthy as it was made with mostly rare, expensive spices.
Today, mulled wine is often associated with Germany and it is in fact a hugely popular drink during the colder winter months and especially during the Advent season starting in late November.
The oldest known mulled wine recipe in Germany dates back to 1834 and is attributed to Count August Josef Ludwig von Wackerbarth. It was rediscovered only in late 2013. The recipe uses white wine and spices such as saffron, star anise, pomegranate, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, honey and sugar.
What you need to know to prepare excellent mulled wine at home
More recently, mulled wine is sold already bottled in many shops and all you need to do is warming it and adding a few slices of oranges or apples.
If you prefer to prepare your mulled wine yourself – which is the option I would definitely recommend – there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
- First of all, never bring the wine to boil or let it simmer for too long. When you do, you will lose the fruit aroma of the wine while bitter agents will develop. Only heat it up to around 80°C; if it gets hotter you will also lose the alcohol in the wine.
- Do not add all the spices at once and do not add too much. Start with small amounts of the spices and keep adding little bits.
- Add sugar or honey with caution. Especially when you already use a semi-sweet wine, you will likely need only very little additional sweeteners.
- You do not need to use the best wines for mulled wine. However, you should still make sure to use a good quality wine.
- Only use fresh spices.
5 super yummy easy to make mulled wine recipes
Classic German mulled wine
1 bottle of red wine
6 whole cloves
6 whole star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange in slices + a few for garnishing
1 TL honey
30 ml rum or brandy
As for the red wine you choose, go for a fruity, full-bodied wine like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Shiraz. It should be a good quality wine, but you should definitely go for the lower price range for all the reasons I have mentioned above.
Add all ingredients into a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat (do not let it boil). Reduce the heat and let simmer for another 10 minutes.
Pour into glasses, garnish with some orange slices, a cinnamon stick and star anise. Serve immediately.
White mulled wine
Even though growing up in Germany, one of the epicentres of mulled wine, I was late to discover mulled wine is also made from white wines. Once I tried, I was totally convinced, however.
The below recipe comes from Franconian vintner and wine expert Martha Gehring. It calls for a higher number of ingredients than the usual mulled wine recipes, its still put together quickly
0.75 litres white wine (ideally a Silvaner or Müller-Thurgau)
0.25 litres apple juice
2 cl plum brandy
4 slices of orange
2 slices of lemon
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
5 allspice seeds
3 whole cloves
1 pinch of aniseed
1 tablespoon honey
In a pot, combine all ingredients and bring to a slow simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
Pour into glasses and garnish with some extra star anise, cinnamon stick and slices of orange or apples.
Mulled apple cider
If like me you are a fan of craft apple cider, this hot version is a must to try during the festive season.
1 bottle craft apple cider
50 ml Calvados
200 ml apple juice
40 g brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
Combine apple cider, calvados, apple juice and sugar in a pot and heat up. Reduce heat just before it starts to boil.
Reduce heat, add spices and orange zest and let simmer for around 25 minutes.
Pour into glasses, garnish with some extra cinnamon sticks and slices of orange or apples. Serve immediately.
Swedish mulled wine (Glogg)
Around the world, there are some excellent local mulled wine recipes and the Swedish Glogg is one of my favourites.
It calls for port wine, it includes brandy; and the almonds and raisins make for an interesting new flavour combination.
1 bottle of port wine
25 cl of brandy
25 whole cloves
10 cinnamon sticks
65 g raisins
130 g flaked almonds
1 tablespoon cardamom
260 g sugar
Pour port wine and brandy into a pot, then add cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, sugar and the orange zest.
Heat up until it nearly boils, then turn down to a simmer. Mix in the raisings and almonds and keep everything on a simmer for another 45 minutes.
If you have ever been to a French Christmas market, you will certainly be familiar with the very own version of French mulled wine. It is no surprise it calls for the much loved cognac to be included.
1 bottle of dry red wine
10 cl cognac
20 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange, sliced
Pour the wine into a pot. Add cloves and cinnamon then heat until around 80°C (just before it boils). Turn down the heat, add the cognac and orange slices and let it simmer for about 25 minutes.
Pour into glasses, garnish with some cinnamon sticks and orange slices and serve immediately.
Do you like mulled wine? Have you ever made it at home yourself?