Mulled wine is a term used to describe wine—usually a red variety—infused with spices and served warm. It's famous throughout Europe and has been served during the winter months for centuries. Mulled wine goes by different names, depending on the country of origin. For instance, it's called glögg in Sweden, glühwein in Germany, grzaniec galicyjski in Poland, vin brûlé in Italy, and vin chaud in France.
There are many mulled wine recipes. Some are complex, while others are quite simple, and the ingredients vary depending on the region. Typical spices used in mulled wine include allspice, anise, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and vanilla. The addition of fruit or sugar to sweeten the mixture also varies from recipe to recipe. Bitter orange is a common additive, but some recipes also call for apple, fig, ginger, or even raisins.
The type of alcohol included in mulled wine varies as well. Most recipes begin with red wine and may have one or more other liquors added. Brandy or cognac, rum, and vodka, as well as aquavit and sherry, are all popular additives to mulled wine.
Alcohol-free mulled “wines” can be made by replacing the wine with fruit juice or cider. Another approach boils the mixture until the alcohol evaporates off, though this is not precise, and some alcohol may remain. Nonalcoholic versions are usually referred to as mulled cider. Wassail is another common name, though it more often includes alcohol like beer, brandy, rum, or wine.
Preparing mulled wines typically requires combining the wine with the spices, fruit, and other additives. This mixture is simmered on the stovetop to allow the flavors to infuse, though it's also a perfect warm punch to make in a slow cooker.
Once thoroughly heated, the mulled wine is either strained and served immediately or refrigerated to allow further infusion of the flavors. Some recipes call for a full 24-hour, refrigerated infusion. The additives are then strained out, and the mulled wine is reheated before serving.
Mulled wine has become a favorite tradition during the winter months because of its warming qualities. Drinking hot liquids warms the body from the inside out, and alcohol acts as a vasodilator, dilating the blood vessels and allowing warm blood to flow more freely. The addition of warm spices, such as cinnamon and clove, adds to the warmth and comfort of this drink.
European street vendors traditionally sell mulled wine throughout the winter months and during holiday celebrations. It's often served with almonds, spiced cookies, or biscuits for dipping. In Norway, glögg parties are a common occurrence during which the warm punch is served alongside rice pudding.
Wassail—either the alcoholic mulled wine or spiced cider—has ceremonial significance. The act of "wassailing" consists of singing, drinking, and celebrating the health of the trees following the apple harvest. Wassail is still used in reference to celebrations and drinking today, although the focus is more on wishing good tidings to one's neighbors rather than a good harvest.