Serving warm mugs of steaming mulled wine is the smartest thing you can do to upgrade any holiday party. It doesn't get any easier than adding a few bottles of wine, some brandy, maple syrup, whole spices, and orange peel to a slow cooker and heating until warm. There's no need to stand behind the bar shaking up individual cocktails when, with the help of a slow cooker and a ladle, guests can serve themselves while they mingle.
With just a few glugs, a twist of a spice jar, and a flick of your wrist, you will have a custom cocktail fit for every occasion through the new year.
What Is Mulled Wine?
Mulled wine is simply wine that has been spiced, sweetened, and served warm, often with a shot of hard liquor. In Germany, it is called Gluhwein or "glow-wine" and the shot of liquor is rum or amaretto. In Scandinavia they serve Gløgg, adding blanched almonds, raisins, and port. Spain's sangria is similar, although served chilled and filled to the brim with cut fruit. You might even remember singing the holiday classic "Here We Come a Wassailing," but you might not know that wassail is a Christmas drink made of ale, wine, or hard cider, served hot and sweetened and flavored with spices, ginger, and citrus.
The danger in mulling wine (other than imbibing too much) is the urge to overdo it on the mulling spices. Although you may have grown up with mulling spices simmering on the back stove during the holidays, believe me — you do not want to drink a mugful of potpourri. Be judicious with the addition of whole spices; you need a lot less than you have been lead to believe. A pair of cinnamon sticks and star anise pods and a mere four whole cloves will perfume a batch or two of mulled wine. After that, if the party keeps rocking, fish out the spent spices and replenish with new.
For Your Information
- You will need two bottles of red wine for 10 to 12 cocktails. The recipe is easily doubled for larger parties.
- Whole cloves, star anise pods, and cinnamon sticks are the best choice for mulling wine. You want the flavor and aroma, not the grit from ground spices.
- Maple syrup adds robust, earthy sweetness and dissolves more easily than granular sugars.
Mulled Wine Served Simply in a Slow Cooker
Slow cookers are the perfect serving vessel for winter cocktail parties. The drink stays at a constant cozy temperature and the only babysitting it needs is an occasional glance to let you know when to refresh the crock with wine, brandy, and maple syrup. You'll know you need to replenish the spices when they appear saturated and their fragrance dwindles.
Be sure to offer garnishes, including cinnamon sticks, star anise, and orange peel. That way, when you refresh the slow cooker, you've already got half of the ingredients at your fingertips. Just open a bottle of wine, pour in a few glugs of sweet maple syrup and a few shots of brandy, and you can keep on celebrating.
A Simple Step-By-Step Guide to Mulled Wine
- Combine all the things first. Combine wine, brandy, maple syrup, cloves, star anise pods, cinnamon sticks, and orange peel in a slow cooker. Choose an affordable red wine for mulling. Your best choice is one described as "jammy" or as having a "fruity, full-bodied flavor."
- Heat on LOW until hot. It will take about an hour for the mulled wine to get hot. Resist the urge to heat on HIGH so that you don't boil the alcohol away and to give the spices time to permeate the beverage.
- Reduce heat to WARM and serve. Mulled wine actually improves as it sits; the flavors mellow and the spices perfume the whole house.
How to Serve Slow Cooker Mulled Wine
Set serving glasses or mugs alongside the slow cooker and be sure to arrange a ladle on a spoon rest. Finish the setup with a few small bowls of garnishes — sliced orange, strips of orange peel, fresh cranberries, cinnamon sticks, star anise pods. A dark-colored towel or napkin set discretely nearby will ease any worry if spills occur. A make-ahead, serve-yourself custom cocktail means more holiday enjoyment for you, and if there's any left at the end of the night, snuggle on the couch with a steaming mug of mulled wine and breathe in the scent of the holidays.
Slow Cooker Mulled Wine: The Easiest, Simplest Method
What You Need
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise pods
2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
Peel of 1/2 orange, white pith removed
Optional garnishes: cinnamon sticks, star anise pods, orange peel or slices, cranberries
Liquid measuring cup
3- to 4-quart slow cooker
Knife and cutting board
- Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Stir the wine, brandy, maple syrup, cloves, star anise pods, cinnamon sticks, and orange peel together in a 3- to 4-quart slow cooker.
- Heat on LOW for 1 hour. Cover and heat on the LOW setting until hot, about 1 hour.
- Lower the heat to warm, ladle into mugs, and garnish. Reduce heat to warm for serving. Ladle into mugs or heatproof glasses and garnish as desired.
- Storage: Strain leftovers to remove spices, then refrigerate in a covered jar or pitcher for up to 2 days.
- Half batch: For a smaller batch, combine 1 bottle wine and 1/4 cup each brandy and maple syrup, but keep the same amount of zest and spices.