A Brief History of Mulled Wine

by Karin Mosca
mulled wine

mulled wine

Tea, coffee, hot chocolate… there are countless ways to warm yourself up in the cold winter months. But personally, we prefer a little booze in our winter drinks. So let’s talk about mulled wine, the traditional winter warmer par excellence.

The History of Mulled Wine

Glühwein, vin chaud, mulled wine, glögg. Call it what you will, but it’s always the same: hot wine mixed with sugar and spices. As you can imagine, the custom of drinking warmed wine originated in mountainous areas and colder countries, before spreading all over the world.

The first ancestor of mulled wine dates back to ancient Rome. The conditum paradoxum, first described in Apicius’ De re coquinaria, was a drink made from hot red wine flavoured with honey, pepper, saffron, dates and spikenard leaves. It was usually offered to guests at the end of a meal as a digestif.

Christmas wine

In the Middle Ages, however, spiced drinks became popular as potent medicines and cinnamon soon replaced pepper. Mulled wine was called hypocras, after the Greek physician Hippocrates, an ingenious way of making drinks more medically convincing. Further evidence of this type of wine can be found in the Tractatus de modo preparandi et condiendi omnia cibaria, an ancient anonymous recipe book from the late Middle Ages.

Over time, it has spread to many European countries, especially Eastern and Northern Europe. The recipe may vary slightly from country to country: some add nutmeg, others fresh ginger, some sweeten it with sugar and others with honey.

Moreish Mulled Wine Recipe


  • 1 litre of red wine
  • 100g sugar
  • Lemon peel
  • A few slices of orange
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • About 5 juniper berries
  • Nutmeg
  • About 8 cloves
  • 1 star anise


  1. Pour the sugar into a pan and add all the spices, including the orange and lemon peel. Then pour in the red wine and turn on the heat.
  2. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes over a low flame. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Very carefully, bring a flame to the surface of the wine and let it flare up until it is extinguished.
  4. When the fire is out, strain the mulled wine into the cups.
Christmas market

What’s the Best Wine to use for Mulled Wine?

Generally speaking, you should use a full-bodied red wine. Safe bets include Barolo, Cabernet or Merlot.

Translated by Chelsea Cummings from Karin Mosca’s original Italian article: Vin brulé: la bevanda del Natale!

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