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Mulled wine is a beverage of European origins usually made with red wine along with various mulling spices and sometimes raisins. It is served hot or warm and may be alcoholic or non-alcoholic. It is a traditional drink during winter, especially around Christmas and Halloween.
Wine was first recorded as spiced and heated in Rome during the 2nd century. The Romans travelled all across Europe, conquering much of it and trading with the rest. The legions brought wine and viticulture with them up to the Rhine and Danube rivers and to the Scottish border bringing their recipes with them.
The Forme of Cury, a medieval English cookery book from 1390 mentioned mulled wine, says: "Pur fait Ypocras …" grinding together cinnamon, ginger, galangal, cloves, long pepper, nutmeg, marjoram, cardamom, and grains of paradise ("spykenard de Spayn", rosemary may be substituted). This is mixed with red wine and sugar (form and quantity unstated).
British mulled wine
Mulled wine is very popular and traditional in the United Kingdom at Christmas, and less commonly throughout winter. Mulled cider (and sometimes mulled ale, traditional yet no longer common) is also served, with a mulled apple juice as a non alcoholic alternative.
In traditional culture
Over the years the recipe for mulled wine has evolved with the tastes and fashions of the time. One Victorian example of this is Smoking Bishop, mentioned by Charles Dickens but no longer drunk or known in contemporary culture. A more traditional recipe can be found in Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management at paragraph 1961 on page 929 to 930 of the revised edition dated 1869:
1961.-TO MULL WINE.
INGREDIENTS.- To every pint (500 ml) of wine allow 1 large cupful of water, sugar and spice to taste.
Mode.-In making preparations like the above, it is very difficult to give the exact proportions of ingredients like sugar and spice, as what quantity might suit one person would be to another quite distasteful. Boil the spice in the water until the flavour is extracted, then add the wine and sugar, and bring the whole to the boiling-point, then serve with strips of crisp dry toast, or with biscuits. The spices usually used for mulled wine are cloves, grated nutmeg, and cinnamon or mace. Any kind of wine may be mulled, but port and claret are those usually selected for the purpose; and the latter requires a very large proportion of sugar. The vessel that the wine is boiled in must be delicately cleaned, and should be kept exclusively for the purpose. Small tin warmers may be purchased for a trifle, which are more suitable than saucepans, as, if the latter are not scrupulously clean; they spoil the wine, by imparting to it a very disagreeable flavour. These warmers should be used for no other purpose.
In contemporary culture
In contemporary British culture, there is no specific recipe for mulled wine and the spices involved in its recipe. However, this is commonly a combination of orange, lemon, cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel seed (or star anise), cloves, cardamom, and ginger. Often the spices are combined, boiled in a sugar syrup before red wine is added, heated, and served. Variations include adding brandy or ginger wine to fortify the drink and enhance the flavor. However, it is highly common to buy a tea bag of spices in shops that is added to the wine, which is heated along with slices of Orange as a convenient alternative to a full recipe. Mulled wine is often served in small (200ml) porceline or glass mugs, sometimes with an orange slice garnish studded with cloves.
A Modern British Recipe
Ingredients (12 servings)
- 2 unwaxed oranges
- 1 lemon (peel only)
- 150g caster sugar
- 5 cloves (plus extra for garnish)
- 5 cardamom pods (bruised)
- 1 cinnamon stick (around 2" or 5cm in length)
- A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 bottles of fruity red wine (unoaked is preferable)
- 150ml ginger wine
- Peel and juice 1 orange, and add to a large saucepan along with the lemon peel, sugar and spices. Add enough wine to just cover the sugar, and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 – 8 minutes until you have a thick syrup.
- Meanwhile, if you're serving the mulled wine immediately, stud the second orange with 6 vertical lines of cloves, and then cut into segments to use as a garnish.
- Turn the heat down, and pour the rest of the wine into the saucepan, along with the ginger wine. Gently heat through and serve with the orange segments as a garnish. Alternatively, you can allow the syrup to cool, and pour it into sterilised bottles for use at a later date.
While mulled wine may be found throughout winter, in the UK it is considered almost exclusively a Christmas drink. Although available in pre-made bottles, it is often seen as a drink served at parties and gatherings in December where the drink's creation is seen as a skill of a good host: The better the flavor of the mulled wine, the better the host. Mulled cider (in the West country this is traditionally called Wassail and drunk at harvest time) may be found at Christmas markets and pubs alongside mulled wine. Traditionally, mulled ale was drunk as a winter drink, but it is very rarely seen in the UK today, if not extinct. Ales brewed with mulling spices are however easily found as limited edition beers from breweries in December.
German and Austrian Glühwein
Glühwein (roughly translated as "glow-wine", from the hot irons once used for mulling) is popular in German-speaking countries and in the region of Alsace in France. It is a traditional beverage that is offered during the Christmas holidays. The oldest documented Glühwein tankard is attributed to Count John IV of Katzenelnbogen, a German nobleman who was the first grower of Riesling grapes. This gold-plated lockable silver tankard is dated to c. 1420.
Glühwein is usually prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star aniseed, citrus, sugar and at times vanilla pods. It is sometimes drunk mit Schuss (with a shot), which means that rum or some other liquor has been added. Fruit wines, such as blueberry wine and cherry wine, are occasionally used instead of grape wine in some parts of Germany. There is also a variation of Glühwein which is made with white wine. However, white Glühwein is less popular than its red counterpart.
Glögi, Glögg, gløgg, and similar words are the terms used for mulled wine in the Nordic countries (sometimes misspelled as glog or glug). It is spelled gløgg in Norwegian and Danish, glögg in Swedish and Icelandic and glögi in Finnish and Estonian. In Denmark, Glögg is often drunk at "Jule-arrangementer", which are Christmas events in the country.
Non-alcoholic and alcoholic versions of glögg can be bought ready-made or prepared with fruit juices instead of wine. The main ingredients of alcoholic glögg are red wine, sugar, spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and bitter orange, and optionally also stronger spirits such as vodka, akvavit, or brandy. Throughout Scandinavia, glögg spice extract and ready-mixed spices can be purchased in grocery stores. To prepare glögg, spices and/or spice extract are mixed into the wine, which is then heated to 60-70 °C. When preparing homemade glögg using spices, the hot mixture is allowed to infuse for at least an hour, often longer, and then reheated before serving. Ready-made wine glögg, as well as low- or non-alcoholic varieties, is normally sold at Systembolaget in Sweden, and in Alko in Finland, ready to heat and serve, and not in concentrate or extract form. Glögg is generally served with raisins, blanched almonds and Ginger biscuits (Ginger Snaps), and is a popular hot drink during the Christmas season.
In Sweden, ginger bread and lussebullar (also called lussekatter), a type of sweet bun with saffron and raisins, are typically served. It is also traditionally served at Julbord, the Christmas buffet. In Denmark, gløgg pairings typically include æbleskiver sprinkled with powdered sugar and accompanied with strawberry marmalade. In Norway, gløgg is paired with rice pudding (Norwegian: riskrem). In such cases, the word graut-/grøtfest is more precise, taking the name from the rice pudding which is served as a course. Typically, gløgg is drunk before eating the rice pudding, which is often served with cold, red cordial (saus).
Glögg recipes vary widely; variations with white wine or sweet wine such as Port or Madeira, or spirits such as brandy or whisky are also popular. Glögg can also be made without alcohol by replacing the wine with fruit or berry juices (often blackcurrant) or by boiling the glögg to evaporate the alcohol. Glögg is similar in taste to modern Wassail or mulled cider.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Serbia, kuhano vino/kuvano vino/кувано вино ("cooked wine"), is made from red wine and various combinations of nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, sugar and orange zest, often served with slices of orange or lemon.
In the south and southeast of Brazil, where a large amount of European descendants live, it is called quentão ("big hot one"). It is typically made with red wine, cinnamon sticks and cloves. It is served as part of the Festa Junina, celebrated during winter in the month of June.
In Bulgaria, it is called greyano vino (Bulgarian: греяно вино) ("heated wine"), and consists of red wine, honey and peppercorn. Sometimes apples and/or citrus fruits, such as lemon or oranges, can be added.
In Chile it is called "candola" in the south and "vino navega'o" in the north ('navegado' is considered a hypercorrection) ['sailor; navigator']. Navega'o is a hot drink made from red wine, orange peels, cinammon sticks, cloves, and sugar. Although being considered a southern Chile beverage, it is served throughout the country. Many people regard it as Winter drink. Saint John's Eve (Spanish tradition which replaced 'Wetripantru', the Mapuche New Year's Day that coincides with the Winter Solstice in the southern hemisphere—Midsummer in the northern hemisphere) on the evening of 23 June would be, for example, a good moment to drink 'navega'o'.
In the Czech Republic, mulled wine is called svařené víno ("boiled wine"), colloquially svařák.
In Republic of Macedonia, it is called vareno vino (Macedonian: варено вино, boiled wine) or greeno vino (Macedonian: греено вино, heated wine) and is usually served in late autumn or winter. It is made of red wine, usually from the Tikvešh region, combined with cinnamon and sugar or honey. The wine heated in a combination with pepper is used as a prevention from flu or cold.
In Moldova, the izvar is made from red wine with black pepper and honey.
In Poland, grzane wino ("heated wine") is very similar to the Czech variant, especially in the southern regions. There is also a similar method for preparing mulled beer or "grzane piwo" which is popular with Belgian beers because of the sweet flavor of that particular type of beer, which uses the same spices as mulled wine and is heated.
In Romania, it is called vin fiert ("boiled wine"), and it is made using red wine, adding sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, anise and orange zest. Everything is boiled and served hot.
In Russia, Глинтвейн ("Glintwein") is a popular drink during winters and has same recipe as the German Glühwein. Additionally, the traditional Russian winter herbal drink sbiten, although usually a non-alcoholic tisane made with hot water, may also be made with red wine replacing some or all of the water.
In Turkey, it is called Sıcak Şarap ("hot wine") and can be made using sweet red wine, adding sugar and fruits such as lemon and orange. (The classical sweet wine for this use used to be the now discontinued "Hoşbağ" brand of the former Turkish state monopoly "TEKEL".)
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