Your comprehensive guide to mulling wine

You could spend $12 on a Christmas candle from Target, or you could fill your home AND your glass with the holiday spirit by mulling some wine. Called by many names (Glühwein, Gløgg, vin brulé, bisschopswijn, etc), mulled or spiced wine is the most festive drink of the season.
It’s easy too, if you know the basics…

The Spices

Unless you’re inheriting an heirloom recipe from your Nordic grandmother, there really is no one way to mull wine. The spicing can be left up to personal taste, but the list below are the spices you’re guaranteed to encounter in a steaming mug of Glühwein:

  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Star Anise (or Fennel Seed)
  • Citrus fruit (typically orange)
  • Cardamom
  • Ginger
  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary

You can use all or just some of these spices, it really is dealers choice here. You don’t want to hold back too much though so I would recommend using at least 4 of the above. My personal favorites? Cinnamon sticks, cloves, orange, nutmeg, and star anise. These not only taste great, but look beautiful floating around in your vat of wine.

The Wine

The best wine for mulling is going to complement the fruit and spice flavors you’re adding in, as well as stand up to the heat applied to it. Go for fruit-forward, juicy, reds with Big Bad Body. You want it to be a heavy wine that can tolerate what you’re throwing at it. Consult the list below for your top options:

  • Syrah/Shiraz
  • Zinfandel (my personal go-to)
  • Merlot
  • Malbec
  • Bordeaux blends

DO NOT USE: Pinot Noir. Though fruity, it is too light-bodied for mulling.

Feeling experimental?

Try mulling a white wine instead of a red. Same rules apply: go big or go home with full-bodied and fruity whites, and any wine that is particularly aromatic.

  • Chardonnay (unoaked)
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Riesling
  • Muscat

For a mulled white wine, I’d lean in to using the citrus fruits like orange and lemon. Focus on spices like ginger, rosemary, cardamom, and cloves.

NOTE: Do not bother spending a lot of money a bottle of wine that you will be mulling. An expensive wine is pricey because of it’s nuance and balance; spice and heat will diminish anything making it valuable. Permission granted to be frugal.

The Recipe

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Mulled Wine

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A classic holiday mulled wine to have going on your stove on repeat all season.


  • 1 bottle red wine
  • Half an orange, juiced
  • Half an orange, whole for seasoning
  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 4 star anise pods
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • Additional cinnamon sticks, star anise pods, and orange peels for garnish
  • Optional: 2 shots of brandy


  • Pour wine and cider (and optional brandy) into a slow cooker or large pot.
  • Juice half an orange into the pot.
  • Add cinnamon sticks, star anise pods, cloves, and nutmeg.
  • Add half an orange (including the peel), sliced into two or three pieces.
  • Turn slow cooker or stove to high heat, allowing mulled wine mixture to boil and then reducing it to low heat for 15 minutes.  Let it simmer longer for extra flavor power and to allow the aroma to linger in your home.  


Adjust seasoning to your preferences – have some fun and make your own signature mix.  It’s difficult to mess up mulled wine! 

Sydney Isaacs
Sydney Isaacs

Sydney is a 29-year old American living between France and Italy. She has a WSET Level 2 certification in wine, along with a degree in environmental engineering and an MBA. She loves exploring local farmer’s markets, haunting her favorite wine bar, and discovering new restaurants.

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