The Secret Of Glühwein, Gløgg, Or…. Mulled Wine

“But now I beg that you will sample a drink which I have specially ordered to be prepared for us and which is, I think, not known in your country. It consists of hot wine blended with honey and with rare spices from the Eastland called cinnamon and cardamom. Men well versed in the subject of drink assert that no beverage is so pleasing to the palate or so effective at dispersing heavy humours and morbid cogitations.’ Gudmund found the drink good and wholesome;”

Frans G. Bengtsson, The Long Ships: A Saga of the Viking Age

In this post:

Different versions of mulled wine in different countries

My pancake-making uncle was also a dab hand at a couple of pretty knock out drinks. He lived in Switzerland and one of them was a kind of anglicised  glühwein, mulled wine if you like.

In Scandinavian countries this drink is known as gløgg and it often includes aquavit, cardamom (if you use the black kind it gives a lovely smoky taste) and dried fruit.

The German version is glühwein (or ‘glowing’ wine) and that includes schnapps.

The original inventors,  however, were probably the Romans. Necessity is the mother of invention, and those short skirts their soldiers wore must have resulted in some pretty frozen knees….

Two secrets to making good mulled wine

This is how my uncle made it – I have yet to find better. The brandy is the secret ingredient. Also key to his method is the omission of  oranges which makes it less cloying.

If you want to cheat and buy mulled wine ready made, Waitrose do a good one which is also excellent in gravy. Don’t be tempted by the instant sachets however, that you are supposed to add to a bottle of red – they are disgusting.

Making mulled wine in an Aga or slow cooker

If you have an Aga (or a slow cooker) you can combine all the ingredients EXCEPT for the brandy and heat on the simmering plate until it just starts to steam. THE SECRET IS never to let it boil – it will taste ‘stewed’ – and you will lose the alcohol, its very raison d’être. Cover the saucepan and put it in the simmering oven for twenty minutes or so. Then add the brandy and leave it to stand for a few minutes before serving.

“There’s no point using anything other than cheap wine, but it should still be something you would be happy to drink cold. Tempranillo from Spain is one good option, and Chilean merlot works well too, because it’s sturdy and fruity but not so distinctive that it can’t make a good canvas for the spices.”

Victoria Moore, How To Drink

Recipe for making a magnificent mulled wine

One bottle of wine will give six generous glasses


  • 2 litres/3½ pints robust red wine – it doesn’t have to be wonderful quality obviously. See Victoria Moore’s suggestions, in the quote above.
  • 6 oz/175 g/¾ cup plus 2 tbsps golden caster sugar
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • about six turns of the nutmeg grinder
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 sliced lemons – or a lemon and an orange
  • ½ glass of brandy or calvados… or a citrus-based liqueur such as Grand Marnier… or more. A Swedish gløgg recipe might use 1 part aquavit or vodka to 2 parts red wine
  • a few drops of orange or Angostura bitters


  1. Put the wine, sugar, spices, bitters and brandy in a saucepan and heat until nearly boiling.
  2. Cover and leave to infuse for five minutes, then strain.
  3. “Serve, if the party is in your own garden” he says, “or pour into a vacuum flask”.
  4. Ideally one slice of lemon should go into each cup, otherwise add the lemon to the wine in the saucepan.

“I don’t swim on Christmas Day because I don’t like crowds and I’m too old to race even fifty yards. Yesterday there were record crowds and also a record water temperature – 46°F is the highest for years – and they also seem to have got through a record quantity of mulled wine. This morning the place seemed hung-over after its annual binge.”

Al Alvarez, Pondlife: A Swimmer’s Journal, 26 December, 2002

Music to listen to while you make mulled wine

A very appropriate piece of music to listen to as you make this is Tis I that have warm’d ye, from King Arthur by Henry Purcell:

Film clip

From It’s A Wonderful Life, the angel orders mulled wine, ‘heavy on cinnamon and light on cloves’.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Posts

Terrific tangerine fizz cocktail discovered in Lisbon at Insólito

While Olga, head bar tender at Decadence in Lisbon, was working through a Smoke Me – a pre-prandial we were enjoying at neighbouring sister restaurant…
Read More

Irish Coffee

“Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups:alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat.”Alex Levine It’s St…
Read More

Sign up to our Saucy Newsletter

subscribe today for monthly highlights of foodie events, new restaurant at home menus, recipe ideas and our latest blog posts