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How to make mulled wine

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Ready to enhance your winter drinks repertoire? Look no further than mulled wine - the ultimate winter warmer.

Everyone has their own mulled wine recipe - the variations and options are almost endless. But here’s the recipe we use - it always seems to go down a treat!


  • 1 lemon
  • 2 oranges
  • 8-10 cloves
  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 60-80g Sugar


  • 25-35ml Cointreau (or similar orange-flavoured liqueur) or 80ml Ruby Port

What to look for in your base wine when mulling

When picking out a wine to mull it’s tempting to opt for very inexpensive wines, but I’d recommend focussing on good value – selecting a good quality red will make the world of difference to your mulled wine.

There are also some key characteristics to look out for. I find it best to choose a wine that’s medium- to full-bodied and fruity - such as a young, unoaked Tempranillo with its juicy red-fruit flavours. Other good options include new-world reds made from Merlot - which tend to have deep blackberry and plum characters, or a Sicilian Nero D’Avola packed with black cherry, plum and liquorice notes.

Pick a wine you like

While the addition of all the spices to your wine is going to change its profile considerably, if you want to make a mulled wine you love it’s best to choose a wine or style that you’ve enjoyed unadulterated.

What to avoid

  • Anything too light-bodied or with very delicate flavours - these will be overwhelmed by the addition of the citrus and cinnamon and the aromas may get cooked off by the heat.
  • Wines that are very high in acidity or tannin.
  • Older wines
  • Stale or faulty wines. You might think that it’s a good way to use up wine that has been open for a while or might be slightly corked, but even the addition of sugar and spice won’t hide faults in a wine - you’ll just end up disappointed.
  • Very expensive reds! This should go without saying, but if you have a bottle of something particularly special hiding in your wine rack, savour it as it is!

Fresh orange studded with cloves

Method for making mulled wine

  1. Remove the zest from one of your oranges and from your lemon in thin strips and squeeze the zested orange.
  2. Push the cloves into your second orange. If you’re struggling to push the cloves through the orange skin, pierce with a toothpick or skewer first.
  3. Put the orange and lemon zest, the squeezed orange juice, the clove-studded orange, the cinnamon sticks, the star anise, most of the sugar and your red wine into a pan over a low heat. Stir gently until the sugar dissolves.
    - If you have any orange-flavoured triple sec liqueur, I like to add a small splash before I leave the wine to simmer. Alternatively, to add more body and fruit-forward notes, Ruby Port makes a great addition.
  4. Turn up the heat a little and leave it for 15-20 minutes - but don’t let it bubble or boil. When it starts to steam (and is hot to the touch) turn off the heat.
  5. Taste, and add more of the sugar if needed.
  6. Allow the wine to cool slightly before ladling into glasses. Make sure your glasses are suitable for hot liquids! Don’t use standard wine glasses, as these are likely to crack or shatter.
  7. If you want to make it even more of a treat, garnish with lemon and/or orange wedges and a cinnamon stick.

Tip: if you're not intending to drink all your mulled wine immediately, keep your wine warm on the lowest heat setting. You may want to pick out the orange, zest and spices so they don’t over-extract and make your drink taste bitter.

If you've been enjoying a glass of mulled wine while studying, share your photos with us - post your best pictures to Instagram and tag #WSET!