Mulling it Over

While trolling wikipedia in search of fun facts, I discovered that nearly every European country has a history of serving mulled wine around Christmas time. Whether its called Glühweinvin chaud,kuhano vino, or karstvīns all the recipes are creepily similar, focusing on red wine mixed with sugar, spices, and citrus fruits (read: sangria á la winter).

In typical fashion, I managed to completely ruin my vin chaud, which is about as difficult as ruining KoolAid.  Luckily, I’ve learned from this mistake (read: will use a recipe next time) and am here to share yet another Misadventure.

My partner in crime (read: token snobby British chick) summed up our problem: “You can’t make sangria by throwing whole oranges into pitchers of wine, that doesn’t change when the wine is hot.”

We had started with two bottles of Trader Joe’s Cabernet (a veritable steal @ 2.99/bottle), a whole orange, some cloves, and cinammon. We stabbed the cloves into the orange, and poured in a generous dose of cinammon. After simmering the mélange in our cauldron for 20 minutes, it tasted like cheap red wine and cloves….lots of cloves.

So, like amateurs resourceful young women, we grabbed our spices and got to modifying the second half of the batch. We sliced our orange, added extra zest, tossed in some sugar cubes, and added a few more vigorous shakes of cinammon.

Thoroughly engrossed in YouTube,  we forgot the cardinal rule of heating wine: DO NOT LET IT BOIL. We let our vin brulé get to a rolling boil, after which it was virtually undrinkable…although I still think version 2 could make a comeback (I’ll let you know after my Christmas Party).

Mulled Wine Uncorked:



Critical Tasting in Action.

History: Mulled wine has been being served for centuries, and migrated to our shores thanks to the Brits.  We all need something to do with less-than-stellar red wines after all…

Try This: Add ginger, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, star anise, cardammon, whole peppercorns, or any combination of these spices to your wine.

Substitute cabernet for any other dry, red wine–the difference will be negligible.

Add a few tablespoons of port or sherry to the pot, or toss a shot of spiced rum into a cup before adding the wine.

Use a recipe.

Definitely Don’t:  

  1. Let the wine boil! All your alcohol content (not to mention taste) will disappear in the steam.
  2. Drink your wine without straining the cloves and larger spices out.

Serve it:  In a clear mug, although opaque coffee cups work great on Christmas morning. It’s best not to serve this in a traditional wine glass, the steam will go right in your face, and you could end up burning your hands if you don’t hold the stem.


I love Alton’s idea with the percolator.  At home, you could try throwing the spices in a bag made of cheesecloth and heat the wine in a slow cooker.


  • December 23, 2011
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