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The One with the Secret to Mulled Wine Perfection

We're into fall now and we've been having some darn chilly weather here in Minnesota, which can only mean one thing...time for sweaters, bonfires, and of course...mulled wine!

I've been experimenting with different recipes over the years, testing out different spice combinations and ratios, wine bases, and flavor profiles. I've had some wins, but have definitely had my share of flops, too. In this blog, I'll share my findings and my recipe for mulled wine perfection!

First of all, I've only made mulled wine when hosting groups of ten or more, so this version of the recipe calls for two bottes of wine. You can cut the ingredients in half to adjust for 1 bottle if you want a smaller batch. You can even adjust the ratio for a single serving and make it in a saucepan on the stove! I prefer to use the slow cooker because it's super convenient for gatherings where the wine is self-serve. It stays warm all night and you don't need to adjust the settings at all!

Next, you need to decide which wine to use as the base. In my experience, a Cabernet Sauvignon works great; I like to go for one with primary notes of cherry, cranberry, and vanilla since those flavors balance the spice notes in the recipe quite well. I'd also suggest staying in the lower end of your price range. Since you will be adding additional components to the mix, you don't really need to spend a bunch of money on a perfectly smooth bodied, well blended, majorly complex wine from a high quality producer. One of my favorites is A3 Wine Co. They make a great oaky Cabernet that you can get at Total Wine for less than $6.00 that works perfectly for mulling.

While you're at the liquor store, you're going to want to pick up the other booze-based essentials in this recipe: brandy and amaretto. Again, you don't need to get too fancy with it since we're not going to be drinking these neat. For brandy, I've used the Symbole National XO ($15ish at Total Wine) from France. For Amaretto, I buy the Regency Amaretto Da Vinci ($12) also available at Total Wine.

Once you have your wine base nailed down, you are ready to round up your spices and they are quite simple: cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and star anise. The first two are pretty commonplace; you can grab them at your local grocer. The star anise is not available at my grocery store so I order it from Amazon. You can get the same pack I use by clicking the image here:

You may be tempted to use the ground spices you already have at home, and while this is an option, I don't recommend it. The ground spices tend to settle to the bottom of the pot, making the mulling process inconsistent and giving the beverage a gritty texture.

The final ingredients are orange and fresh rosemary, which you can grab from the produce section of your local grocery store. I only use 1-2 sprigs of rosemary for a 2-bottle batch so you don't need much, and you will need 2 oranges, sliced into rounds (don't forget to get extra of each if you plan to use them as garnishments!)

Ok, so you have all your fixings, the rest is super easy. Slice your oranges into rounds and throw everything into your slow cooker, then set to "warm" for 1.5-2 hours. If you notice it start to steam, turn the temperature down to "stay warm". You want to avoid steam so the wine doesn't evaporate, and if you accidentally boil it, you will remove the alcohol. It really doesn't take long for the flavors to infuse throughout the wine, and once it does, simply turn the slow cooker to "stay warm" so it stays, well, nice and warm for your guests!

You can use cocktail glasses, mason jars, disposable coffee cups with lids, even coffee mugs or copper mule mugs would work well. When setting up for guests, I like to put the drinking vessels out for easy access. I also set up a serving board with optional garnish (sliced oranges, rosemary sprigs, cinnamon sticks, anise stars) and I leave out the brandy and amaretto in case anyone wants to give their cocktail either a little more punch or a titch of extra sweetness. Don't forget to put out a ladle and a spoon rest to eliminate any spills or countertop messes!


-2 (750mL) bottles Cabernet Sauvignon (or red wine of choice)

-2 shots (approximately 3 ounces) brandy

-Amaretto to taste (will add sweetness, I usually give it a hearty 3 second pour)

-2 oranges, sliced into rounds (leave out the white, pithy end pieces)

-6 cinnamon sticks

-4 star anise

-15 whole cloves

-1 sprig fresh rosemary

-Extra orange, rosemary, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and anise for garnish (optional)


-Combine all ingredients (except for garnish) in slow cooker and set to "warm" for 1.5-2 hours.

-Reduce temperature to "keep warm"

-Serve with ladle and garish as desired

There you have it! Give the recipe a try and let me know how you like it in the comments below. I would love for you to subscribe to my email list so you can check out my other blog posts, recipes, and wine recommendations. Don't forget to follow me on Instagram @thecandidcork for daily musings. Cheers, Corkers...enjoy!

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