Before I let Scott talk about mulling wine, I would like to congratulate him on his new baby boy. Isn’t that great?! Now I’ll let Scott get on with it.
Although a crisp white or a room-temperature red is great at any time of the year, the chilly months of October through February sometimes have us wine lovers wishing for something that can warm us up a bit inside. There is a perfect beverage for that, one that conjures up images of leaves crunching outside on a brisk fall day. That drink is mulled wine.
Almost every culture found in cooler climates has its own recipe for mulling wine, from Swedish glogg to German gluhwein. Versions of mulled wine can be traced back to Roman times. One thing they all have in common, though, is the ability to relax you, warm you and improve your spirits. Here are some tips on how to make the perfect mulled wine.
Simmer, Don’t Boil
In order to really fuse those flavors when mulling wine, it’s important to let your spices and wine simmer gently on the stovetop for about 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let it boil, as doing so can affect the flavor and burn off the alcohol. For some, the alcohol boiling out takes out all the fun, so make sure you’re careful!
After simmering, remove your mulled wine from the heat and let rest for about half an hour before reheating and serving. This will give you great flavor.
There are two ways I like to do this that are better than a stovetop. The first is the crockpot. Leave this on for a while and your whole house will smell amazing. This is perfect for holiday parties too.
The second, if you just want a glass, is the microwave. Just make sure you’re comfortable enough with the microwave settings so you don’t get the wine too hot to the point of boiling. Once you get it down, zapping a glass can be great for when you come in from picking pumpkins and need a quick way to warm up.
Spice It Up
Many different spices are used in mulled wine recipes, with the most popular being cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and star anise. Ginger and allspice are also good choices, and adding a bit of orange or lemon peel is a good idea, too. Just keep in mind to use them with a light hand; cloves, especially, can easily become too strong in flavor and overpower your drink.
You might want to consider putting your unground spices – such as cinnamon sticks and ginger slices – in a muslin bag; this makes them easier to remove when your mulled wine is ready. You can also stud an orange with cloves, giving you flavor and a stunning visual element.
My favorite thing to use is Olde Tradition Mulling Wine Spice bags. We used these at a winery I worked at so I have hundreds of them scattered around my house and often forget that not everyone has them in their cupboard. Use them like tea bags and put in two for every bottle of wine. They’re super easy to use and taste amazing.
It’s not only red wine that goes into your final product. Most mulled wine recipes call for various types of liquor to help enhance those flavors. Best bets include Cointreau, Curacao and Grand Marnier, which really complement those orange flavors. Just be sure whatever spirit you choose does not have too high an alcohol content. You want to complement the spices, not compete with them.
The wine I mull the most is a Cranberry Apple wine. It’s like a hot cider, only for grown-ups. When I’m mulling wine the whole house smells like the holidays when I have a batch of this going. Hmm… is 11am too early to go make a batch right now?
Another important ingredient when mulling wine is sugar, which will help to balance out all those spices. Be sure to add it at the beginning of simmering, so it has ample time to properly dissolve, and stir it regularly. Granulated sugar is best due to its fine texture, but you can also use other sweeteners like honey or flavored syrup. Just don’t forget the importance of stirring and add a little bit at a time. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away if it gets too sweet.
Make your own flavored syrup by combining water, sugar and the spices of your choice and simmering them for 20 minutes. Strain the syrup and pour into sterilized bottles; it will keep for about three months and makes for a quick, easy addition to your mulled wine.
Serve your mulled wine in sturdy glasses – nothing delicate that can shatter when it’s too hot – and add some garnish. Good choices are cinnamon sticks and orange and lemon peels.
Now that you know the techniques for making the perfect mulled wine, it’s time to gather your friends, embrace the chill in the air and have a fun and cozy night in.
Time for a glass…