How to make Christmas market mulled wine (glühwein) at home

Mulled wine is the perfect winter drink. It’s fruity, spicy, and festive! You’ll love how easy it is to prepare at home. Enjoy this warm beverage while you reminisce about cozy Christmas markets.

A glass of mulled wine (glühwein) next to an orange and a plate of cookiesPin

Imagine strolling through the Christmas markets in Germany while the bitter cold weather pummels your body. The fragrant smell of spiced mulled wine wafts over. You see people warming up their cold hands by holding this precious hot drink. 

These nostalgic memories come from my 2010 winter trip to Stuttgart, Germany when I visited my cousin. It was the first time I ever met my cousin, and we hit it off immediately.

Those warm memories and the seasonal cheer that this beverage reliably delivers is the reason I make this spiced mulled wine year after year.

You’ll love this recipe because it’s simple, a crowd-pleaser, and only requires 5 minutes to prepare (then you simmer for an hour).


What kind of wine is best for mulled wine?

Mulled wine is made using red wine. But with so many varieties of wine, what is the best type to get?

Back in California, I would buy Trader Joe’s Two-Buck Chuck (officially branded as Charles Shaw wine) to make mulled wine.

Why?

The wine was an affordable price and tasted pretty good for the cost.

Unfortunately, Trader Joe’s stores in Colorado don’t sell wine.

Yesterday, I stopped by the local liquor store to buy wine for this recipe.

I bought boxed wine for $16 because you need a lot of wine for making mulled wine (you evaporate a lot of volume when simmering). After adding the spices and fruit, I’m not convinced you would taste the subtle notes of higher-end wine anyway. So why spend $20 per bottle?

The sales clerk who helped me recommended a pinot noir or a blend. He said that pinot noir typically has a fruitier profile and blends are well-rounded.

I trusted him, so I picked a California red wine blend. I’ve used the Two-Buck Chuck Cabernet Sauvignon in the past and liked the taste of spiced cab.

I don’t think you can really go wrong with any kind of red wine. As long as it tastes good enough that you’d drink it.

The clerk mentioned that boxed wine also lasts longer than bottled wine because it doesn’t allow air in. That made the boxed wine a no-brainer choice.

For me, the best wine for mulled wine is the cheapest wine that still tastes good enough to drink. 

NOTE: If you are a wine connoisseur, disregard my advice to use cheap wine. You’ll probably hate me for it. Pick your favorite red, and it’ll work well.

Does mulled wine contain alcohol?

While a lot of alcohol is cooked off during the simmering process, there is still alcohol in the mulled wine (at least my version tastes boozy to me).

If you’re concerned about serving alcohol to kids, you can make a non-alcoholic version of mulled wine using apple cider instead of red wine. 

TIP: You can also use a combination of fruit juices, including apple juice, orange juice, and grape juice for a non-alcoholic version of mulled “wine”.

If you’re concerned about not enough alcohol, Germans often top up the glass of mulled wine with brandy or rum just before serving. You could add bourbon or your favorite liqueur if you prefer.

Mulled Wine Recipe. Illustration of wine glass with 2 oranges and 2 cinnamon sticks, from garlicdelight.com.Pin

How long should I simmer the wine?

Here are some principles to consider:

  • The less time you simmer the wine, the more alcohol will remain
  • The longer you simmer, the more time for spices to infuse the wine
  • The longer you simmer, the more concentrated your mulled wine will be

My preferred sweet spot is simmering for 1-2 hours. According to this table, it means I’ll have about 10-25% of the alcohol remaining. Here’s the full table from the USDA (see the table on page 12) so you can decide how long to simmer for depending on how much alcohol you want.

NOTE: A lot of people will complain that 1-2 hours is too long for the spices. You may want to remove the spice sachet before an hour is up if you don’t like a heavily spiced wine.

Ingredient substitutions

You can substitute the oranges with other citrus fruits, such as lemon and grapefruit.

TIP: Add the peel because the oil from the skin of citrus fruits boosts the complex flavors.

If you don’t want to juice the orange, you can add orange juice or grape juice.

If you want the mulled wine to be sweeter, you can add honey, sugar, maple syrup, or your preferred sweetener (agave syrup, monkfruit, etc.)

Include your favorite spices. You don’t have to stick to only cinnamon and cloves. Pumpkin spice and masala chai are good guides on your options. For example, you could add ginger, star anise, cardamom, or any other spices you enjoy.

2 glasses of mulled wine (glühwein) next to a pot of honey and cookies on a white backgroundPin

Tips for success

  • Tweak the ratios to your taste preferences. My friend Katharina (who is German) doesn’t measure the ingredients. She just eyeballs it and adds more spices if she wants it spicier. Or less sugar.
  • If you don’t like the pulp from the oranges, strain the mulled wine before serving.
  • Make a spice sachet to store your spices for easy removal.
  • Consider whether it’s worth the time to crush the spices for extra flavors.
  • You can scale up or down the recipe. Halve the ingredients to serve a party of 4 or double the ingredients to serve a party of 20. Just make sure you have a soup pot that’s big enough to hold all the wine if you’re doubling the recipe. 

Homemade German Christmas market mulled wine (glühwein)

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This winter drink is fruity, spicy, and festive. You'll love how easy it is to prepare homemade mulled wine, just like at the Christmas market. Make extra and store the leftovers in the fridge to enjoy later. Serve it with gingerbread or other holiday cookies.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: German
Keyword: 10 ingredients or less, 5-minute recipe, batch-cooking, christmas, comfort, gluten-free, holiday, party, thanksgiving, vegan, vegetarian, winter
Servings: 10 people
Calories: 163kcal
Author: Anna Rider
Cost: $10

Equipment

  • Knife
  • Chopping Board
  • Citrus Juicer
  • Soup Pot
  • Sieve

Ingredients

  • 6 cups (1.5 l) red wine, about 2 bottles of wine
  • 2 oranges, optional
  • 2 apples, optional
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) honey, optional, add to taste

Spices

  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 20 pieces Cloves

Instructions

  • Gather the ingredients.
    The ingredients for making mulled wine (glühwein)Pin
  • Cut the oranges in half. Quarter the apples and remove the cores. Add the spices to a spice sachet if you're using one.
  • Juice the oranges using the citrus juicer.
  • Add all the ingredients together into a soup pot except for the honey.
  • Bring the mulled wine ingredients to a gentle boil (i.e., when you see bubbles are showing up on the edges of the pot).
  • Once the ingredients are boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer.
  • Simmer the wine for 1-2 hours. Or decide how long you want to simmer the mulled wine by checking this advice on simmer times.
  • Try a sip of the wine (without burning your tongue). Once you're happy with the level of spice and concentration, turn off the heat.
  • Serve the wine in a mug or glass. Be careful not to burn yourself. If you're worried the wine is too hot, allow it to rest for 15 minutes before serving. Use a sieve to strain the mulled wine if you want to remove pulp before pouring into a mug.
  • Add honey to taste if you want the mulled wine sweeter. Add brandy or rum if desired.
  • Enjoy your mulled wine!
    A collage of 9 images to show the process of making mulled wine (glühwein)Pin

Nutrition

Calories: 163kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 12mg | Potassium: 290mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 79IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 44mg | Iron: 1mg
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How to make this in a crockpot/slow cooker

You can make mulled wine in a crockpot. Add the ingredients together and put it on the lowest heat setting. It will take about 1 hour to get hot. Then reduce it down to the warm setting and serve.

Here’s a recipe from The Kitchn that walks you through how to make mulled wine in a slower cooker.

How to make this in an Instant Pot

Add all the ingredients into the Instant Pot cooking vessel. Use the Sauté setting to bring the wine to a low boil (where you see bubbles on the edges). Turn the setting to Low and cook as you would in a slow cooker. Once you’ve cooked it to your desired concentration, change the setting to Keep Warm and it’s ready to serve.

Here’s a recipe from Spice Cravings that walks you through how to make mulled wine in an Instant Pot.

How to make mulled wine in the microwave

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How to serve glühwein

I always serve mulled wine warm!

Otherwise, what’s the point? If you want it cold, you might as well drink sangria.

I like to drink it from a vacuum flask.

A glass of mulled wine (glühwein) in Anna's hand with a snowy backdropPin
This snow storm was the perfect excuse for making mulled wine.

If I’m serving it to guests, I use a mug or a glass. If using a glass, I make sure the glass can handle warm liquids.

WARNING: Glasses can crack or explode due to sudden temperature changes. It’s a safer bet to serve it in a heatproof mug if you have enough mugs to go around.

Can it be made in advance?

Yes! You can prepare the mulled wine in advance and reheat it to serve when you’re ready to drink it. See the advice below for how to reheat it.

You can also cook it for 2 hours, which concentrates the mulled wine. Then store the concentrate in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve it, mix it with boiling water and reheat it.

How is it stored? For how long?

Store the leftovers in the fridge. I would keep the mulled wine for about a week in the fridge and reheat it by bringing it to a gentle boil on the stove (for food safety).

How to reheat mulled wine

If I’m reheating a mug for myself, I put it in the microwave.

If I’m heating enough mulled wine for a group of guests, I reheat it on the stove on medium-low heat or in a slower cooker on the low heat setting because the microwave might not have enough capacity for reheating a large quantity of mulled wine.

How to keep mulled wine warm

For personal consumption, I like to pour the desired amount into a vacuum flask and take it with me on snowy walks.

If I’m serving a group, I like to use a slower cooker to keep the mulled wine warm. You can put it on the lowest setting and leave the lid on. It should stay warm for a few hours.

If you don’t have a slower cooker, you can simmer it on the lowest heat setting in a soup pot on your stove.

WARNING: Keep an eye out to make sure the water doesn’t completely cook off.


What to eat with mulled wine

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Lentil soup with vegetables and sausages
This delicious lentil soup is flexible and scalable. That means you can substitute the aromatics and add fresh vegetables. The recipe is designed for batch cooking so you can serve a crowd or freeze the leftovers. You can scale up the recipe further if your soup pot is large enough. Enjoy with toppings like crème fraîche or serve with crusty bread.
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Creamy pasta with brown oyster mushrooms (and zucchini noodles)
This garlicky version of the traditional Alfredo sauce is simmered gently with oyster mushrooms. The mushrooms layer a deep, earthy flavor to the sauce that makes this creamy pasta dish taste heavenly. Make extra sauce because it freezes well.
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About Anna Rider

Hi! I'm Anna, a food writer who documents kitchen experiments on GarlicDelight.com with the help of my physicist and taste-testing husband, Alex. I have an insatiable appetite for noodles 🍜 and believe in "improv cooking".

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