As we settle into the bitter winter months, there’s a special treat that actually makes me look forward to the cold weather: mulled wine! I like to simmer some in a pot on the stove and sip the sweet, spicy drink on cold nights. And while it makes a great nightcap, it’s delicious any time of day — and makes my home smell incredible. If you’d like to make a pot of your own, here are three tips that will help you make the best mulled wine you (or your holiday guests!) have ever tasted.
Who made the first mulled wine?
The origin of mulled wine isn’t exactly known, but it’s been around for centuries. Various sources estimate that the Greeks and the Romans first started making it in order to not waste wine. Though the idea of adding spices to wine likely came from the Greeks, the first recorded instance of the tasty brew comes in 20 AD during the Roman Empire. The Romans called the drink “conditum paradoxum,” and an early recipe says they added one part honey to one part wine, then added pepper, bay leaf, saffron, and dates. (The high sugar-to-wine ratio may be because wine was really bitter back in those days — plus, the added sugar helped it last longer.)
Mulled wine became a drink that signified status during the Middle Ages, and its popularity grew throughout Europe. Not surprisingly, it really caught on in Nordic countries, with their long, dark winters. They call it glögg, and still enjoy it today. Mulled wine, or glögg, is often associated with Christmas, making this the perfect time of year to try out these tips for making it! Need a recipe to use them with? We love this one from Ina Garten.
3 Tips for Making Mulled Wine
1. Choose a cheap dry red wine.
Since you’re going to be adding a ton of flavors to your wine, it’s best to reach for an affordable bottle. Think under $10, or the bottle you’ve been meaning to drink, but you’re not crazy enough about the taste enough to finish it. While you want to like the wine well enough, adding spices will give it better flavor, so definitely skip any pricier bottles. You should also stick to a drier wine, as you’ll be sweetening it up quite a bit.
2. Stick to whole spices — and toast them first!
When adding spices to your wine, you want them to be whole, not ground or powdered. Whole spices, like sticks of cinnamon, whole nutmeg, and cloves, will release much more flavor into your drink. Ground spices will blend in too quickly and make for a grainy consistency. To get even more flavor, toast your whole spices in the oven before adding them to your mix. “You can release deeper notes within the spices,” Lindens beverage director Gary Wallach told the Huffington Post.
3. Keep the heat low.
If you start seeing bubbles in your wine, turn the heat down! The alcohol in the drink will start burning away if the liquid gets too hot, and that’s no fun. In general, try to keep your wine under 170 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure all its properties stay intact. Your pot should be steaming in order to mix evenly with the spices, but there should be absolutely no bubbles. Let your wine, sweetener (like honey or sugar), and spices steep on low heat for at least 10 minutes (and up to six hours, if you can keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t get too hot) to ensure the perfect cup of mulled wine.
Now there’s just one thing left to do: Pour, sip, and enjoy! (Okay, that’s three.) Skål!