It's so easy to make Mulled Wine with Brandy, and it's such a comforting drink. Red wine paired with apple brandy and warm winter spices just gives such a cozy feeling. In this recipe, a touch of honey warms things up even more. The apple brandy also brings cider flavors that pair perfectly with the spices.
Mulled wine has a long history, and it's known by many different names, especially throughout Europe. Swedish glögg, German glühwein, Italian vin brulé and French vin chaud are just some of the names for similar drinks.
It's such a classic Christmas drink that goes well at any party (or just relaxing at home). Of course, Eggnog is always a hit at the holidays too, but the warmth of mulled wine just hits perfectly after coming in from the cold.
The ingredients you'll need to have on hand are:
- Red wine - I really liked this with Merlot, but Zinfandel and Malbec are also wonderful choices. Choose something that is not too complex or tannic.
- Apple Brandy - I used Laird's Apple Brandy.
- Orange - I used a navel orange.
- Honey - just a touch of honey is perfect. If your wine is on the sweet side, you might want to omit the honey.
- Mulling spices - this is usually sold as a mix of different spices like nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. It sometimes also includes dried citrus peels.
Here are some ways you can substitute in case you don't have some of the ingredients.
- Red wine - although red wine is arguably best here, you can certainly use rose or white wine in this recipe.
- Apple brandy - any fruit-based brandy would work well, but an aged spirit works even better here with the spices. You can try substituting in a blended whiskey or bourbon, or an aged rum. For a lower alcohol version, you can use port or sherry.
- Orange - you can substitute a lemon for the orange, but you will probably want to add a little more sweetener if you do.
- Honey - you can omit the honey if you don't have it, or add in a little maple syrup or plain sugar.
- Mulling spices - if you can't get a bag of pre-mixed spices, see if you can find some whole spices, like cinnamon sticks, whole nutmeg and whole cloves. You'll need to crack them and break them up to get the best flavor, but into large pieces, not powdered. This makes it easy to strain them out.
- Cinnamon sticks - optional, for garnish
You can mix things up by using a different wine, different spirit and altering your mix of spices. Here are some other variations as well:
- Cranberry mulled wine - add cranberry juice instead of orange juice, and add some fresh cranberries to the pot as it simmers.
- Vanilla mulled wine - add a cut-up vanilla bean to the pot, as well as some vanilla syrup in place of the honey.
- Apple cider mulled wine - this would go well with a white wine base. Add a cut-up apple in place of (or in addition to) the orange peel, and use fresh apple cider instead of fresh orange juice.
- Spiced Sangria - add mulling spices to a sangria, like my Fall Sangria with Apple Cider, for a flavorful cold drink.
You'll need a few things to make this mulled wine:
- A pot, at least 1.5 quarts/1.5 liters in size
- A corkscrew (unless you're using screw-top wine, which I actually love, no judgements here)
- Jigger or small measuring cup
- Knife, cutting board and peeler for the orange
- Spice grinder, or mortar and pestle - only if your spices aren't already cracked
- Serving glasses, preferably a mug style with a handle
- Ladle and strainer to serve
To get started, cut a whole orange in half. Juice half of the orange, and use a peeler to take a long strip of peel from the outside of the orange. Try not to get too much of the white pith.
Add the fresh orange juice and the peel to your pot. Then, add in your spices.
Add in the brandy, and then add in the full bottle of wine. Then turn on the heat to medium low.
Once the mixture has warmed a little, add in the honey. The warmth will help the honey to dissolve fully into the mixture. Give it a stir to combine.
Let it simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Taste test it and if you want a stronger spice flavor, you can leave it on the heat for a little bit longer, or add more spices. When you're happy with the taste, you can then turn the heat down to low and keep it on the stove while you're serving, or move the pot to a trivet.
Serve the wine by ladling it out of the pot and passing it through a strainer into the serving glass. Add a long cinnamon stick and a whole star anise for garnish.
Hint: you can toast your mulling spices for a little extra toasty flavor. Just add them to the pot first, and toast them until they are fragrant, around 5 minutes. Then add the orange juice and continue with the recipe.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, you can just use wine if you don't have brandy. Keep in mind your drink will have a lower alcohol since you're also adding juice and other ingredients. You can also swap the brandy out for port, sherry or whiskey.
Red wine with fruit-based flavors works really well in mulled wine. Look for words like plum, jam, or red fruits in the description of the wine. Some great varieties for mulled wine include Merlot, Zinfandel, Shiraz, Syrah or Malbec.
If you're finding your mulled wine to be bitter, you may have heated it to to high of a temperature, or too quickly. You may also have left on too much of the white pith part of the orange peel. Try to keep the temperature low so it doesn't boil, just simmers.
You can also make mulled wine in a slow cooker or an Instant Pot pressure cooker. For the slow cooker, just add everything in and set it to low heat. With a cover, you can let it warm up for about an hour. For the Instant Pot, you can just use the saute function on low to heat it up. It's not recommended to pressure cook with too high of alcohol content.
Mulled Wine with Brandy
- Saucepan or pot, at least 1.5 quarts
- Knife and cutting board
- Citrus Peeler or Knife
- Serving glass
- 1 ounce fresh squeezed orange juice from about half a navel orange
- strip of orange peel
- ¼ cup mulling spices cracked whole spices, not powdered
- 1 ounce honey
- 3 ounces apple brandy
- 1 bottle red wine 750 ml
- Juice half of an orange and add it to your pot. Use a peeler to remove a long strip of the orange peel, taking care not to get too much white pith on it. Add the peel into the pot.
- Add the mulling spices to the pot.
- Add the apple brandy to the pot.
- Add the red wine to the pot.
- Stir everything up and place the pot on medium low heat.
- When the mixture warms, add in the honey and stir.
- When the mixture reaches a simmer, keep it there for about 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, turn the heat down to low or remove it from the heat.
- Using a ladle and strainer, strain the drink into your serving glasses.
- Garnish with a cinnamon stick and whole star anise pod.