On a cold winter evening, there is nothing better than curling up in front of the fireplace with a warm cup of tea, except, with a cup of hot Mulled Wine!
I discovered Gluhwein (or mulled wine as call it in the US), when my husband and I used to hang out with his German colleagues in graduate school (#FunTimes). It is a very traditional drink in the winters in Germany, particularly around Christmas.
For my mulled wine recipe, I use one medium orange with its peel and juice to add a slight citrus and tart flavor, and add whole spices like cinnamon, cloves and star anise. Then, I add a bottle of dry red wine and let it steam and take on the flavors of the syrup. This way the alcohol doesn’t burn off and the wine gets infused with the wonderful flavors of citrus and spices. Many recipes use apple cider, but I feel that changes the flavor too much for my taste.
Smart Tip: I pierce the cloves into the orange peels, so that its easy to pick them out later. Instead, you can use a spice cloth/cheese cloth to keep the cloves & star anise together and easily fish them out before serving.
Wine & Sometimes a Shot of Grand Marnier
Mulled wine is best made with the a full bodied red wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon, but you can use any good dry red wine that you like. Save your expensive reserved wines and use a relatively inexpensive wine for mulled wine, since its flavor gets modified completely. I wouldn’t ever use ‘Cooking Wine’ in this, or any recipe for that matter. For an extra kick in the end, you can spike it with a shot of dark Rum, whiskey, bourbon, or Grand Marnier. This is totally optional, but, I personally prefer a small shot of Grand Marnier in my cup. It boosts the orange flavor and gives this drink a great rich flavor.
Two Important Tips
Important Tip# 1: The key to making Mulled Wine is to not ever boil it. Alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water so you really have to watch the heat. For that reason, I use boiling water to dissolve the sugar and infuse the spices in the beginning. Then let it cool down to a warm temperature before adding the wine.
Important Tip #2: When you switch to the ‘Keep Warm’ mode, fish out the orange peels, star anise and cinnamon. This prevents the wine from getting overpowered by these spices. Also, sometimes the spices can cause a slight bitter after-taste if left in there too long.
Do Not Pressure Cook in the Instant Pot
You can make this recipe on the stove-top too. But, you have to watch it like a hawk since you don’t want to over-heat your wine. I used an Instant Pot in its SAUTE mode to make the Mulled wine, and later switched it to ‘Keep warm’ mode, so that it stays warm for my guests throughout the party. I do not recommend using pressure cooking for this recipe, since the high temperature will burn off all the alcohol. I prefer using the Instant Pot for this recipe, simply because I can follow the recipe on the SAUTE setting without having to monitor it continuously. AND, I can keep it warm without the stove being on, which is avoidable when I’m entertaining guests.
It’s very easy to scale this recipe. Simply double-up the ingredients and follow the instructions. The boiling time for the sugar syrup may go up by a minute or two due to increase in quantity. The rest of the time remains about the same. Feel free to taste in between and adjust the flavors to your taste (Chef’s privileges;-)
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On a cold night, a warm mulled wine is soul warming. Based on dry wine with spices and citrus flavors, this is a perfect blend of spice & alcohol.
Peel a medium size orange and save the peels. Pierce the cloves into one or more of the orange peels and set aside. Extract the juice from the orange and keep aside. Optionally, you can strain it to avoid any citrus fibers in the drink.
Turn the instant pot on Saute mode on HIGH. Add sugar and water in the Instant Pot. Bring water to a boil. Stir once to dissolve the sugar.
Reduce the Saute setting to LOW on the Instant Pot. Add orange juice, orange peels, cinnamon, star anise, and the orange peels with cloves in it. Simmer for 2 minutes
Add red wine and let it steam, not boil. Takes between 4-6 minutes, depending on the size of the pot. Hit Cancel and Turn on 'Keep warm' mode. This will keep the Mulled wine at a nice warm temperature for the evening.