Combat the cold from the inside out with warm, spiced wine

Story by Meredith S. Jenson

Pumpkin spice lattes get the headlines, but it’s hot, spiced wine that will really get you into the holiday spirit.

Mulled wine is a sensory seasonal experience. It’s a welcome home hug rounded out by the sounds of merry laughter and the soft, crunching sighs of snow underfoot. The heavy perfume of clove and cinnamon warm your lungs as those same flavors dance with wine tannins across your tongue. Mulled wine is everything comforting about the holidays in a mug.

Across the pond, you’ll find several nations in Europe with mulled wine traditions. The entire concept of the beverage likely has its roots in Ancient Greece and Rome, where spices were added to “off” wine in order to make it palatable and reduce waste. Its popularity only rose through Middle Ages, when recipes started popping up in printed journals and books. Later, in the Victorian England classic, “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens name-checked smoking bishop, a warm drink made from red wine, port, lemons or sour oranges, sugar, and cloves.

“A Merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon over a bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”

The standard mulled wine recipe includes red wine, baking spices, and citrus. In keeping with tradition, you don’t necessarily need a “fancy” wine to make a great batch of vin chaud. French street vendors, for example, use what’s left of that autumn’s Beaujolais nouveau wine, which isn’t meant for aging. An inexpensive bottle of red that you don’t hate is a great starting point. Play around with combinations of different spices and fruits until you find the winning blend to start your own tradition.



Mulled wine recipes from around the world

Recipes courtesy of

Add any of the following recipes to a pot and heat gently on low for 20 minutes. Alternatively, combine ingredients in a slow cooker and heat on low. Do not boil. Strain and serve in glass mugs for added effect.



French Vin Chaud

1 750 ml bottle red wine

2 cinnamon sticks

20 whole cloves

1 sliced orange

1/2 cup Cognac

Portuguese Vinho Quente

1/2 750 ml bottle red port

1/2 750 ml bottle Madeira

1 orange, sliced thin

2 cinnamon sticks

10 whole cloves

Spanish Vino Caliente

1 750 ml bottle red wine

1 clementine with peel, sliced

4 strips lemon peel

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 vanilla bean, halved

1/4 cup Brandy de Jerez

1 teaspoon nutmeg

Medieval Hippocras

1 750 ml bottle red wine

2 cinnamon sticks, crushed

24 whole cloves

3 cups water

1/2 cup honey

1 long, dried pepper (available at spice stores)

Cleopatra’s Elixir of Life

1 750 ml bottle red wine

4 large sage sprigs

3 large mint sprigs

3 figs, chopped

10 whole cloves

Ancient Roman Piment

1 750 ml bottle red wine

10 strands saffron

1/2 piece ginger, chopped

1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds

1/4 cup honey