A World of Mulled Wine Awaits
Mulled wine is a truly international drink and every wine drinking nation across the globe has a version of its own. This winter warmer has been served for centuries and although the bases are similar, the finished products are not.
We’ve spent some time cooking up a few, a true hardship we know, so we can share the best recipes with you. Just in time to make your own for National Mulled Wine Day which takes place on the 3rd of March.
High-Level Tips for High-Level Tipple
The first and most important rule is to select good quality ingredients. If you wouldn’t drink the bottle of wine on its own there is no reason to believe that the addition of other ingredients is going to improve the drinking experience. It doesn't have to be the most expensive one you can find, a good mid-range bottle will work well. The right wine will have a robust body that can hold its own against the spices certain recipes call for, smooth tannin's and a ripe berry palette.
Tannins are those things in wines (and tea) that make your tongue stick to your palate like all the moisture has been sucked out of the air
All the recipes call for one bottle of wine and make 4 to 6 servings. Place your red wine in a thick-based saucepan and turn your burner on to medium heat. Add the ingredients specified in each recipe and bring to a slow simmer. Once the sugar has melted remove the saucepan from the heat, then strain out the fruits and spices and serve. Yum!
The trick when making the mulled wine is not to allow the wine to boil as this will create bitterness which you don’t want. Also, all the magic will disappear as alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, so you want to warm the wine slowly.
Mulled Wine Recipes from Around the World
Italy – Vin Brule
Since we have the Romans to thank for bringing us mulled wine, it seems only fair to start with Italy first. Okay, that's likely not a cold, hard fact. It appears most ancient tipplers tend to take credit for everything!
The name Vin Brule is French, not Italian and means burnt wine.
1 bottle of red wine of choice
2 anise stars
2 sticks cinnamon
2 cardamom seeds
1 cup sugar
6 ounces Apple Brandy
Remove the citrus rinds taking care to leave the white pith of the fruit which is quite bitter. Add the rinds, spices, and sugar and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Once heated through allow the wine to rest covered giving the spices time to steep. Add the brandy after 30 minutes, strain and serve.
Germany – Feuerzangenbowle
Most mulled wine fans will be familiar with Germany’s Glühwein but not everyone is aware of Feuerzangenbowle. Feuerzangenbowle, which translates to burning tongs, adds a whole new dimension to the Glühwein experience. Not only does it add a twist to the traditional ingredients, but the way it is served also has a real wow factor.
What makes this version of German mulled wine different from the everyday Glühwein is that it is placed into a bowl over a small burner, similar to a fondue pot. On top of the bowl a small grate is placed and on that, a rum-soaked sugar loaf.
The sugar loaf is then set alight and as it burns the melting sugar drips into the mulled wine below. As the sugar loaf burns you can slowly pour more rum onto it until the whole loaf has melted away. Quite a sight and with a delicious result.
You can make your Gluhwein using the recipe for Vin Brule, but exclude the sugar and brandy and add 10 cloves, 8 juniper berries, 8 allspice berries and 1 cup of orange juice. The big trick here, to keep the sugar alight, is to use a rum with a minimum 45% proof to ensure it burns properly. We recommend Wright Brown Rum strong enough to keep the flame burning and delicious too.
If you're feeling a little nervous (and maybe you haven’t serviced your fire extinguisher recently), here's a video to help you on your adventures.
Bulgaria – Greyano Vino
Bulgaria has its own spicy take on mulled wine which they call greyano vino. The addition of peppercorns, 10 or so will do, and sometimes bay leaves is quite different to the other recipes we have tried.
A great greyano vino is hot and spicy enough to open all your senses and scare away winters chill with just one sip.
Hungary – Forralt Bor
When winters chill sets in you’ll find Forralt Bor stands popping up throughout cities and towns. The recipes vary from region to region and can be vastly different so we recommend that if you find a batch you enjoy be sure to make a note and return to that stand. Forralt Bor is an essential part of the winter holidays in Hungary. It isn't so much about the drink itself but rather it punctuates the day keeping people warm as they rush around in the cold to complete their holiday chores. It gives neighbors a chance to stop and catch up, sets a festive mood, and forces communities to stop and enjoy the holidays. For this reason, it is best to think of forralt bor as a small serving of festive warmth designed to keep you going throughout the day rather than a 'day drink'.
Brewed in anything from barrels to percolators, you can find an easy recipe here and it's even better if you use one of the many excellent wines coming out of Hungary blended with the best mulled wine spices you can find.
Canada – Caribou
Yes, we are still talking tipple here and not antelope. This Canadian cocktail got its name from the warm Caribou blood it was originally made with. Okay, that may be an old wives tale but it makes for an interesting topic of conversation once you’ve enjoyed a glass or two of Canada's take on mulled wine.
The recipe is one of the more simple ones to make and the drink is a staple at Carnival de Quebec. Here it is served in shot glasses carved from ice. Not served warm at the festival it is the 25% high ABV liquor which is added that keeps carnival goers warm while enjoying the festivities. Now although it is made at home too, Caribou has become synonymous with the festival where it is used to stop your lips from freezing together while you enjoy your time outdoors in Canada's icy weather.
White Mulled Wine
Not specific to any country, we added this one because not everyone is a fan of red wine. Perfect for non-red drinkers or someone just looking for a winter warmer that’s a bit less robust. We love this particular recipe because it's a bit fruity and the spices don’t overpower the wine.
Our Best White Mulled Wine Recipe
1 bottle of good quality dry white wine
1 1/2 cups apple cider (use an alcohol-free cider if you prefer something a bit lighter on the ABV.)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup whole cranberries
1 orange, sliced
1 apple, sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, split in half
5 cardamom pods
5 anise cloves
Pomegranate seeds to serve
Bring all the ingredients to a simmer except the pomegranate seeds. Once warm and the sugar has melted remove from the heat, serve into glasses. Add a spoon of pomegranate seeds to each to garnish.
We love a good mulled wine and as we mentioned quality ingredients are paramount to a tasty outcome. If you are new to the world of wine grab a copy of Wine Folly: The Essential Wine Guide to start your vinocation. Or catch up with some of our past wine fun here…and if you live in California check out the latest and greatest new California wine club, Vinely. They'll keep you stocked with awesome boutique wines from across the state alongside other great benefits. If you don't live in California don't fret, if we have our way Vinely will be expanding into other states soon.
But, back to the mulled wine. This is another great tipple where you can let your imagination flow and experiment with any ingredient that catches your fancy. We have a pot with cocoa beans, vanilla, chili and oranges on the brain for our next experiment right now. Share yours…we'd love to give it a try.