mulled wine – the best recipe for winter cheer

mulled wine

A coffee cup filled with mulled wine is just the thing to get you through carol concerts, freezing cold rugby matches and Christmas shopping – as long as you’re not driving. It may make you ugly cry a bit more during the Joni Mitchell CD scene in Love Actually (is that just me who doesn’t feel like Christmas has started until I’ve done that?). Here’s how you can have have delicious mulled wine within seconds.

And as if that wasn’t enough, making a batch of homemade mulled wine makes your house smell better than any scented candle and you get a drink at the end of it – handy if you need to get rid of any less festive smells (or grumps) before guests arrive.

The problem with most mulled wine recipes is that by the time your spices have infused into the wine, all the alcohol has boiled off. I am assuming that by now you know that in my book that is A.Very.Bad.Thing.

Make a mulled wine syrup ahead of time and hold onto the alcohol

By making a concentrated, spice-infused wine syrup, you can add it to just-warmed wine when you need it. The syrup can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for ages, ready for an almost instant cup of mulled wine for one (I won’t judge) or for a big crowd.

The syrup makes a perfect gift. Arrive at a Christmas party with a jar of the syrup along with a bottle of red wine and you’ll win the best guest prize (because there is always a best and worst guest prize after every party).

Treat yourself to fresh spices

This drink is so much about the fragrant spice that if yours are more than 6 months old, they’re going to be musty and will have lost their magic. It’s funny how we hold onto things that are so cheap to replace, but we do. Christmas is a good time to clear out your spice cabinet and replace the ones you use. Compared to the rest of the shopping you’re doing at this time of year, a few new spices shouldn’t break the bank.

Fresh bay leaves can be frozen and will keep their flavour much better that way. You can use them from frozen – just drop them into stews and soups.

Other uses for the mulled wine syrup

  • As a delicious base for a Champagne cocktail. Just pour a little syrup in the bottom of a flute before topping up with fizz.
  • Add a Christmas flavour to gin and tonic. Just add a teaspoon of the syrup to your G&T.
  • Use cider (hard cider for US readers) in place of the wine in the original recipe.

Mulled wine ingredients (makes around 10 cups of mulled wine)

Active prep time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 10 minutes

2 satsumas – (soak in hot water for 5 minutes to remove wax)

1 lemon (soak in hot water for 5 minutes to remove wax) unless it is unwaxed

around 50g (¼ cup) sugar or maple syrup – add more if you prefer it sweeter

6 whole cloves (see note above about using fresh spices)

1 stick cinnamon

3 bay leaves

½ a teaspoon ground nutmeg, grating it from the whole nutmeg is the best

2 whole star anise

2 bottles Chianti or other full-bodied red wine


To make the mulled wine syrup

  1. Get a large saucepan – one that will hold 2 bottles of wine. Peel the satsumas and lemons with a vegetable peeler. You just want to top layer of zest. Do this over the saucepan – as the oils will spray out a little and you don’t want to waste them. Then squeeze the juice from the satsuma and add it to the pan along with the sugar or maple syrup, whole cloves, cinnamon stick, bay and ground nutmeg, I use my Microplane fine zester to grate my nutmeg. Then put the pan on a medium heat (lid off).
  2. Stir with a silicone spatula and add just enough red wine to cover the sugar and spices, usually less than a glass, depending on how big the base of your pan is. Simmer until the sugar has totally dissolved, stirring every minute – then bring to the boil, still stirring every minute, and boil for 5 minutes until you have a thick syrup.
  3. When your syrup is ready, either decant it into a small clean jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, or leave it in the saucepan and on a low heat if you’re making your mulled wine straight away.

To make the final drink

Add the rest of the wine to the syrup, stir well, and gently warm through for about 5 minutes just before ladling into in heatproof glasses or teacups. Remember – if you boil it or leave it warming for longer than 5 minutes you’ll lose the alcohol. Some people strain out the spices with a sieve or a slotted spoon, I like to leave them in. Your call.


You can now buy the equipment I use in this recipe through my shop. I’ve spent years testing my favourite bits of equipment so rest-assured that whatever I recommend is the best tool for the job and will give you great results without cluttering your kitchen with unused tools.

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