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With spring right around the corner, I’m taking advantage of the last “wintery” activities I can. But when I want to spice it up and go one notch farther than sipping on a hot cocoa, I spend an evening making a huge batch of sweet and spicy mulled wine. Parallel to the classic hot toddy, luscious mulled wine recipes start with using a full-bodied red wine as your base; I would suggest a Cabernet Sauvignon, but Merlot or Chianti are often used as well.
This mulled wine recipe is one of my favorites, because it combines ingredients such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, star anise, ginger, and bay leaves; which complement each other on top of the three types of citrus and dry red wine body. To prep, combine all spices but the vanilla and star anise and place them into a cheesecloth. It is best to tie the cheesecloth with string so you can submerge the spices in the wine while it simmers; this avoids having to strain loose spices out of your wine before serving, and works well for distributing flavors evenly throughout the pot.
It is essential to create a “syrup” with a small amount of wine before heating it all at once. The syrup becomes a sugar-and-spice infused, condensed reduction of flavor that is later added to the rest of the wine. If you want to make a less-alcoholic version of this recipe, hold the Brandy and add all of your wine sooner; that way you cook off most of the alcohol in the wine. However, keep in mind that you don’t want the alcohol to evaporate out of the wine by boiling it all at once!
Once the ideal syrup is achieved, heat the star anise, Brandy, and the rest of the wine on low and stir the wine and spices mixture for 25 to 30 minutes. Once you remove the cheese cloth of spices, vanilla pod, and star anise, leave on lowest heat setting while in between servings. I like to use glass mugs to serve my guests; that way everyone can admire the beautiful deep red color of the wine, and see the cinnamon stick in the mug while tasting and breathing its aroma with each delicious sip.
Spicy Mulled Wine
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Cook Time: 25-30 minutes
Total Time: 30-40 minutes
- 2 bottles (750 mL) of red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chianti)
- ¼ cup of Brandy
- 1 peeled and sliced orange (Zest, but keep ½ peel)
- 1 lemon (Zest, but keep ½ peel)
- 1 lime (Zest, but keep ½ peel)
- 1 cup organic, raw cane sugar
- 3 bay leaves
- 8-10 whole cloves
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp fresh / 2 tsp ground ginger (or both, for an extra kick)
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 vanilla pod (halved length-wise)
- 2 star anise
– First, combine all spices but vanilla and star anise into the center of a cheese cloth and tie cloth with a non-dyed string
– Zest, and then peel orange, lemon, and lime and keep ½ peel of each
– Over medium heat, combine sugar, all zest/peels, and juice from orange in a large pan
– Add cheese cloth of spices and the vanilla pod to the mixture, and top with just enough red wine to cover the sugar; simmer
– Once the sugar has completely dissolved in the wine, bring to a boil
– For 4-5 minutes, keep on a “rolling boil” until a thick syrup consistency is achieved
– Once your syrup is complete, turn heat to low and add the star anise, Brandy, and the rest of the wine
– Realistically, you could serve it after 5 minutes on low; but I prefer to let the mixture simmer for 25-30 minutes longer to ensure it packs a strong punch
– Stir the mixture occasionally; it is almost complete when the wine starts to steam
– Remove peels, vanilla pod, star anise, and the cheesecloth of spices before serving
– Serve into glass mugs with a ladle, add cinnamon stick for presentation