While London can be lovely in the winter, it can also be less than lovely under certain circumstances. Think drizzly rain, colder temperatures, and shorter days. That’s why Londoners find ways to bring cheer into daily life, whether that’s a pint at the pub with friends, a huge enthusiasm for festive parties, or a plethora of holiday markets across the city. And if you’ve ever been to one, you know one of the best parts of any holiday market – in any city – is the prospect of mulled wine.
It turns out that England has its own take on mulled wine, so it won’t taste the same as the glühwein you might find at a Bavarian Christkindlmart or vin chaud at a French Marché de Noel. The original recipe for English mulled wine dates back centuries and uses spices and flavors you might only find in England at the time; today chefs and market merrymakers have taken some modern liberties to improve the flavor and make it at least somewhat familiar to other mulled wines you may have tried.
Mulled wine is one of my favorite parts of celebrating the holidays, and I have a pot going almost constantly between Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and Christmas. Normally we keep it traditional, but today I want to share my recipe for English mulled wine that we’ve added to our rotation; if you follow this recipe, you can bring a taste of London into your home and imagine yourself exploring Hyde Park Winter Wonderland or Borough Market as the holidays approach.
English Mulled Wine Shopping List & Recipe
When researching English mulled wine, I came across a number of variations in how to make it. The general ingredients are wine, fruit, honey/sugar, and spices, but I chose to create my recipe inspired by a 14th Century recipe for “Potus Ypocras,” “Hipocras Drink,” or mulled wine:
Take a half lb. of canel tried; of gyngyuer tried, a half lb.; of greynes, iii unce; of longe peper, iii unce; of clowis, ii unce; of notemugges, ii unce & a half; of carewey, ii unce; of spikenard, a half unce; of galyngale, ii unce; of sugir, ii lb. Si deficiat sugir, take a potel of honey.
Take a half lb. of cinnamon; of ginger, a half lb.; of grains of paradise, 2 ounces; of long pepper, 3 ounces; of cloves, 2 ounces; of nutmeg, 2 ounces and a half; of caraway, 2 ounces; of spikenard, a half-ounce; of galangal, 2 ounces; of sugar, 2 lb. If there is no sugar, use 2 quarts of honey.
While some of these spices/flavors aren’t common anymore, you can get the rest of the ingredients today: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, caraway (which I did not use as I don’t like licorice), galangal, and sugar or honey. Modern interpretations also add fruit, which I chose to include too.
All this to say that, unlike my English Trifle recipe, you need a few more ingredients to make English-style mulled wine at home. Luckily, they can all be found at your grocery store or online through retailers like Whole Foods:
- Red wine – The great thing about mulled wine is that it doesn’t require a fancy base wine. We used Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon from Trader Joe’s, which is no longer “two-buck chuck” and is now “five buck chuck.”
- Clementines – These delightful little citrus fruits come into season as winter arrives, and add a nice amount of sweetness.
- Lemon – While oranges (or in this case clementines) are a common mulling ingredient, I’ve never seen a recipe use lemons before this one for English mulled wine.
- Cinnamon sticks – You can find these in the spice aisle at your local grocery store. I don’t recommend using craft cinnamon sticks you might have lying around from the craft store… those aren’t food grade!
- Whole cloves – Another ingredient you can find at the grocery store.
- Honey – You can use any honey. I used some from my friend Ashley who keeps bees at her Massachusetts home.
- Brandy or Congac – Another ingredient I’d never seen before I started researching English mulled wine, this kicks your alcohol content up and adds a bit of flavor.
- Ginger – This is one of the flavors I’ve come to really appreciate in cooking in the last year; ginger adds some earthiness to the wine.
- Allspice – This spice is inspired by the original 14th Century recipe, and adds a bit of peppery flavor.
- Nutmeg – A traditional holiday spice, nutmeg is good for rounding out the flavor.
- Cardamom – Adding a piney flavor, cardamom gives you an essence of the forest to finish the flavor profile of the mulled wine.
Once you’ve assembled all of these ingredients, it’s time to make your English mulled wine!
Step-by-Step English Mulled Wine Recipe
Making mulled wine is easy in general – and you only need to do a few steps to prep your ingredients for making English mulled wine specifically.
Start by halving your fruits and peeling and slicing your ginger. Then, you need to insert the whole cloves into your sliced clementines, as shown.
Once your mulling ingredients are all ready, you need to add them to your slow-cooker or crockpot. Add one bottle of wine first, then add the clementines, lemon, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice, and nutmeg. Pour in the two ounces of brandy or Cognac, stir it all together, and put the lid on.
After 30 minutes, come and taste test your mulled wine. To sweeten (which it will probably need, and most English mulled wine recipes call for), add one tablespoon of honey, stir, and let sit for 10 minutes before tasting again. You can add up to three tablespoons of honey before it starts to get too sweet.
Then I recommend adding at least part of the second bottle of wine to bring the wine flavors back up a bit. The reason you don’t add all the wine up front is that the mulling spices and flavors can overpower the natural flavor of the wine; by adding the second bottle later and just letting it heat up before serving, you retain some of the good wine flavor too.
After adding honey to your taste preference and more wine, then letting the whole mix re-heat for 10-15 minutes, it’s time to serve it up! The traditional way to enjoy English mulled wine is in a mug; I used my glass coffee mugs, but any mug will do!
Here’s the full recipe card to help you make English mulled wine with specific ingredient quantities and steps:
- 2 750mL bottles of red wine
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
- 15-20 Whole Cloves
- 2 Clementines, halved
- 1 Lemon, halved
- 3 Tbsp Honey
- 2oz Brandy or Cognac
- 1.5" Ginger, sliced and peeled
- ½ tsp Allspice
- ½ tsp Nutmeg
- 5-10 Cardamom Seeds
- Open and pour one bottle of red wine into your crockpot or slow cooker. Set on low heat and place the lid on.
- Stick the whole cloves into the skin-sides of the halved clementines.
- Add the clove-clementines, lemon, ginger, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, allspice, and cardamom seeds to the crockpot.
- Pour in the 2 ounces of brandy or Cognac.
- Replace the lid and turn your crock pot up to high heat.
- After 30 minutes, turn the heat down to low and taste-test your mulled wine.
- Add the first tablespoon of honey and stir it in. Replace the lid.
- After 10 minutes, come back and taste-test again. Stir in another tablespoon of honey if needed for your preferred taste.
- If you need more honey, wait another 10 minutes and stir it in. Then, if needed, add more red wine from the second bottle until the wine reaches your desired taste.
- If you add more wine, let the mulled wine sit another 10-15 minutes to re-heat before serving.
Have any questions about making your own English mulled wine at home to enjoy a flavor of London this winter? Let me know in the comments!