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Everything You Need for Last-Minute Mulled Wine


People tend to regard mulled wine as an easy way to get rid of wine otherwise deemed undrinkable. I know this because I was one of those people. As it turns out, boiling red wine with powdered cinnamon, a cup of apple juice you stole from your niece, and whiskey because it was the only brown liquor in the joint, does not make mulled wine. It makes everyone mad you took two slightly undrinkable bottles of wine and turned them into an extremely undrinkable pot of hot booze.

Mulled wine when done (even kiiinda) correctly is delicious, and makes use out of red wines people bring to your house during the holidays that yeah, you might not want to drink. It is also the closest you can get to serving up literal glasses of holiday cheer. The key is not to assume you’re going to have everything you need spur of the moment. Here’s how to stay prepared to make last-minute mulled wine.

The basic proportions based on BA’s mulled wine recipe:

  • 1 bottle of wine
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup Port
  • 1½ cups of apple cider
  • 4 apples
  • 1 small orange
  • 10 cloves (pressed into the oranges if you want to be fancy)
  • 1 cardamom pod (or 12 seeds, optional)

Keep whole cinnamon sticks and whole cloves in the cabinet. If you don’t already have these things, it is a $7 investment that is well worth it. The powdered ones that are on the complete collection spice rack your mom gave you as a housewarming present five years ago will not do. That shit is old and tastes like it.

Have spiced apple cider in the fridge. Some recipes may let regular apple juice slide, but you’d need to add so much extra spice to make up for it. Also, why is anyone drinking regular apple juice when this is the only time of year you can be drinking cider? Don’t play yourself.

My vote is for the Port because I enjoy drinking it alone more than brandy in case you go through the next month without making any mulled wine and still want an option for nightcaps, but that’s just me. Technically, you don’t need brandy or port to make mulled wine in a pinch, but most recipes include it. I find it adds a heartiness to the drink, and keeps it from tasting like you’re serving a bottle of red that was left in the back of your car for the entire month of August (hot, and gross).

Two oranges and four to eight apples, give or take. In a pinch, if you don’t have oranges, just skip them—don’t substitute with too-sugary orange juice.

The Bon Appétimulled wine recipe calls for two cardamom pods, which are sometimes hard to find and not something you’re just going to keep around. However, you can buy cardamom seeds in the spice section along with cinnamon and cloves. A pod generally has around a dozen seeds, so you can use that math for your recipe. Cardamom adds an almost tannic dryness that can offset some sweetness, while adding depth and aromatics.

Ideally you want to use bigger and bolder red wines like Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah, or Cabernet, but any fruity red wine your family members are leaving around will do. I’ve used Pinot Noir before to success. Honestly, whatever red wine that you’re stuck with and you don’t want to drink, they’ll work. Just don’t mix varietals, like one bottle Cabernet and one bottle Pinot Noir.

Sugar or honey. Not all recipes call for it, but often you will need it to balance out bitterness and/or alcohol. My expert advice: do not add any sugar or honey until the very, very end. You want to add it to taste because depending on the random wine you’re using and the spirit, you may not need much of it, if any.

Practice casually saying things like, “Hmm. Hey Karen, I see you brought these two bottles of Merlot, and I don’t know about you guys, but mulled wine sounds pretty good right now. How about I whip some up real quick?” You can also practice laughing and waving your wrist with a carefree, “Oh, it’s nothing!” like one of those mythical, 1950s Technicolor hosts that can simply do it all.

Serve it as a surprise nightcap, or as accompaniment to plaid pajamas and your favorite seasonal films that are (hopefully) streaming on Netflix, to warm the hands and hearts of your very impressed guests. Mulled wine keeps for three days in the fridge, and all it takes is a quick 20-minute simmer on the stove to make yourself a mug while singing along with Mariah Carey. It’s one of those gifts that keeps on giving, but better because it’s wine.



By: Marissa A. Ross

***Grabbed from: