Cocktail Corner: Mulled Wine

On Thursday, March 3, the nation will join together around the figurative communal hearth and enjoy a piping hot mug of mulled wine. Becaue naturally, March 3 is National Mulled Wine Day.

Celebrate National Mulled Wine Day

   While the warmed, spiced wine has probably seen its heyday that does not diminish the fact that the simmered wine doesn’t hit the spot when the temps have dipped and weather turns foul. First reported on the scene in 3150 BCE in ancient Egypt, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found jars excavated in 2009 from Scorpion I, one of Egypt’s first pharaohs, detecting some interesting residue inside that “provides the earliest direct chemical evidence for wine with organic medicinal additives.”

The frontpiece of Apicius, De Opsoniis et Condimentis, published in 1709 by Martin Lister.

The frontpiece of Apicius, De Opsoniis et Condimentis, published in 1709 by Martin Lister.

      As for cocktail consumption, reports of mulled wine were first recorded in the ancient text Apicius de re Coquinaria, which was essentially a Roman cookbook. Long associated with Marcus Gaius Apicius, the renowned Roman lover of food and the luxury lifestyle from the first century of the Common Era, the text first appeared in the late fourth or early fifth century CE. There is little doubt the Roman’s loved their spiced wine: the recipe appears in the first chapter of Book I.

   Here we offer a few mulled wine recipes and tips to make the most of National Mulled Wine Day.


Mulled-Over: Tips for Mulling Wine  

  • When talking mulled wine, you do not need an expensive bottle of red. The mulling spices tend to hamper those tasting notes that most come to expect on a top-dollar bottle of vino. With that said, don’t scrimp on a bottom shelf doozy—a mid-range bottle of red like Merlot or Beaujolais will do just fine.
  • Traditional mulling spices include cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and nutmeg, but you don’t need to strictly rely on these. A kick of ginger, vanilla, and allspice will all do nicely. But remember, go easy on those spices, especially clove and star anise, which tend to overwhelm and overpower when stewed—it’s all about moderation.

Traditional Mulled Wine Spices: Cinnamon, Star Anise, Cloves

Traditional Mulled Wine Spices: Cinnamon, Star Anise, Cloves

  • Citrus is your friend. The acidic bite of lemon and orange compliment the warm spices used in the wine, helping balance your brew.
  • With all the various spices floating around, mulled wine can get downright murky. Clean things up a bit with a strip of muslin, a length of cooking twine, and create a spice bag. Essentially a homemade tea bag, this will allow you to brew your wine while reducing the sediment.
  • A topper of liqueur will help brighten that sauce. Curacao, Cointreau, and brandy all make for a good addition—not too boozy with just a bit of flavor.
  • Not a fan of red or wine in general? Try cider. Opt for flat cider or perry (pear cider), and adjust those spices to compliment the base. I prefer cinnamon, clove, a touch of ginger, and a split vanilla pod for my spices, while others insist on adding cardamom, coriander, and star anise. To each their own.
  • Ditch the stovetop and bust out the crockpot. The slow cooker is the ideal kitchen appliance for mulling that wine. Some recipes for mulling wine takes hours, perfect for the low setting on the crockpot—not only does it take a fraction of the electricity, but the heat is just right.


Traditional Mulled Wine

For a sip straight out of the Medieval ages, this recipe will warm those bones.

Traditional Mulled Wine Recipes

Serves 4

  • 1 bottle of Merlot
  • Half a lemon, sliced thin
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 oz. Cointreau
  • 3-4 tbsp. sugar (to taste)


Add everything to the slow cooker and simmer for 1 to 2 hours.

To serve, pour through a fine-mesh sieve into four mugs; garnish with a cinnamon stick and star anise pod.


Mulled Wine

For a break from tradition while still maintaining its roots, this recipe calls for sweet pomegranate pods.

Mulled Wine - Spiced Wine - Ancient Cocktail Recipes - Winter Weather CocktailsServes 4

  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 3 whole clove
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 8-10 pomegranate pods, crushed
  • 1 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 bottle of fruity red wine (Merlot is recommended)
  • 1/3 cup sugar or honey
  • 1/4 cup brandy


Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. To serve, pour through a fine-mesh sieve into four mugs; garnish each with a cinnamon stick.


Spicy Simmered Sangria

Spiced Simmered Sangria - Beso Del Sol SangriaTwist up that traditional mulled wine and try this recipe for a spicy simmered sangria, courtesy of Beso Del Sol Sangria.

Serves 4

  • 1 liter Beso Del Sol Sangria
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 pieces of fresh ginger, about 2 inches
  • 6 pieces of cloves
  • Nuts as desired (hazelnuts, blanched almonds, and raisins)
  • Sliced fruit (oranges, apples, lemon)
  • Sugar (to preferred taste)
  • Blackcurrant juice (to preferred taste)


Combine and heat up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and strain before serving. Crush or chop nuts and raisings into small bits and add as desired. Add slices of orange, apple, and lemon. Add blackcurrant juice and sugar to preferred taste.


Mulled Cider

Ditch the wine and sip on some mulled cider.

Mulled Cider - Mulled Wine Alternatives

Serves 4

  • 2 quarts apple cider
  • 4 strips lemon zest
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 inch cube ginger, chopped
  • 1 vanilla pod, split
  • 1 cup of spiced rum


  • Apple slices
  • Lemon zest strips
  • Cinnamon sticks


In a saucepot, heat cider with everything but rum to light boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Add rum and allow to heat through—do not boil. Remove from heat and pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl; add sliced apples and lemon zest strips. Serve in mugs with a cinnamon stick stirrer.

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