Hot Mulled Wine – Vin chaud

Hot Mulled Wine

Yes, it’s winter in Paris. And while the temperature drops, folks move inside the cafés to escape the cold, except the hearty smokers, who are seemingly immune to the chill outside while they puff away on les terrasses. And while we’re all bundled up, shivering on the sidewalks as we go about our days, on café chalkboards are scrawled the words: Vin chaud.

Vin chaud (hot mulled wine) is somewhat of an anomaly in a country where wine is revered, as the idea of “heated wine”, infused with spices, is a curious paradox. I was never big on the idea myself, and preferred my wine straight up (except for rosé, on ice), but during the bitingly cold winter in Paris, I can see the appeal of the warm soothing drink, tinged with the spices of winter.

Hot Mulled Wine côte du rhone

I was inspired by a recipe in The Food 52 Cookbook, compiled by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs of Food 52. And while their recipe used white wine, which sounded nice, I had a bottle of red wine that I had opened by accident; I assumed we’d all drink it the night before, but we were all too tired – which is, indeed a rarity.

spices for Hot Mulled Wine

For those folks who say that you should “always use the best wine you can afford, even for cooking”, I’m here to tell you that I can’t imagine anyone in France making vin chaud with anything but inexpensive or leftover wine. (I think I’ve mentioned this before, but a sommelier told me the average price paid for a bottle of wine in France is €3,20.) Years ago a famous French chef gave me his recipe for vin de pêche (peach leaf wine), and when I asked him which wine he recommended, he said, “Non, non…use the cheapest wine you can find.”

And indeed, once you’ve heated it up with spices, any nuances in the wine get steamed away. There’s no cinnamon in this, which is nice because cinnamon tends to take over. Plus the French don’t like the overload of cinnamon that Americans do, so I was happy to see that Merrill (whose recipe is in the book) left it out. Of course, it’s a free country – assuming you live in a free country – so you can spice it up as you like.

red wine in pot for vin chaud Hot Mulled Wine

Instead of the pear eau-de-vie called for, I used ginger eau-de-vie, which I love because its spiciness, and I find it goes well with both winter and summer fruits. (And fall and spring fruits as well.) And it also goes well with mulled wine.

Hot Mulled Wine

Hot Mulled Wine
Four to six servings

Inspired by The Food 52 Cookbook by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, and the Food 52 community.

Most people in France would leave the spices in, and serve them that way. But if you do, you should alert guests that there are spices in there, or strain them out before serving.

Any fruity red wine would work, such as merlot, gamay, or côtes du Rhône, or give is a whirl with white wine, if you wish. Fortifying the wine with eau-de-vie is a good idea, and that, too, can be swapped out with another favorite liqueur, such as brandy or port, although it can also be left out.

  • 1 bottle (.75l) red wine
  • 1 star anise (entire)
  • 2 slices fresh ginger
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 3 whole cloves
  • generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) mild-flavored honey
  • optional: 1/4 cup (60ml) Pear Williams, or another eau-de-vie

1. Pour the wine in a nonreactive saucepan. Add the spices and honey, and bring to simmer. Turn off heat, and let stand 15 minutes.

2. Reheat the wine until it’s warm and steamy, turn off heat, and add the eau-de-vie (if using.) Pour the wine into heatproof glasses.

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  • Dina
    December 3, 2012 3:46pm

    I can’t live without this come winter time. You should go to a Weihnachtsmarkt in Germany to understand how amazing, important & necessary this is in winter!! :))))

  • December 3, 2012 4:00pm

    Scandinavian mulled wine has almonds and raisins. Surprised to see it left out. Also surprised that white wine can be used.I wonder whether the French came up with this recipe as a way to use up leftover cheap wine rather than appreciate mulled wine for what it is

  • Sarahb1313
    December 3, 2012 4:05pm

    As a Dane, this is de rigueur for the season!

    I do like the omission of Cinamon!

  • Archena
    December 3, 2012 4:09pm

    Alcohol is a no-no and I was just thinking can i use Red Grape juice here?

    • December 3, 2012 4:30pm
      David Lebovitz

      If you want to make a Hot grape juice, just heat it up with the spices the same way. I would add honey to taste as grape juices vary in natural sweetness.

  • December 3, 2012 4:10pm

    I think you read my mind. Was considering making some all weekend and never got around to it. Now I will have to!

  • Maja
    December 3, 2012 4:12pm

    You’re killing me! I just ate last of your fantastic Baci di dama made yesterday (gasp!) and now this… Making it on Friday, definitely :)

  • Paola
    December 3, 2012 4:37pm

    Thank you very much David for posting this!
    I am trying to get in the Xmas mood and wanted to prepare the Mulled wine tonight for my husband, and me of course!
    I must now run and get a tree….

  • December 3, 2012 4:40pm

    I told my husband this weekend that I also find vin chaud in France ironic because you buy it outside in the Christmas markets where there are a million French people pushing and bumping into you – leaving the vin chaud everywhere but the cup. So I’m glad you shared this because after a disastrous vin chaud Saturday evening, I said that from now on I’m making vin chaud at home – and now I can.

  • December 3, 2012 4:45pm

    I tried vin chaud the other day at the La Defense Christmas market and it kind of tasted like potpurri boiled in hot wine. But I’d be willing to give it another shot, especially considering it would be nice to drink a hot beverage this winter!

  • December 3, 2012 4:47pm

    Once December rolls around, small wooden huts sprout throughout the pedestrian areas in downtown Vienna and the hardy Viennese enjoy happy hour outdoors, with a glass – or more – of hot mulled wine. Happy hours lasts into late evening, no matter how low temperatures fall.

  • Shere
    December 3, 2012 4:54pm

    Oh to be in France for Christmas. I’ll make vin chaud and dream about it…

  • Aude
    December 3, 2012 5:02pm

    I made this last night! Great minds…
    I’ve never seen vin chaud done with white wine. That seems weird and although it might be good, its definitely not a French thing.
    Also, cheap wine, absolutely! You won’t taste the wine at all. Keep the good wine and enjoy it as it is.

  • Tony
    December 3, 2012 5:11pm

    Nope, not a fan. I’ve tried in Prague, Nuremberg, Munich, Berlin, Los Angeles AND London but just can’t. But then I don’t like Mince Pie either. I’ll drink eggnog instead.

  • Kate
    December 3, 2012 5:29pm

    I haven’t found ginger eau-de-vie in the US except for a bottle that is $170.00 made by Reisetbauer. I did find pear eau-de-vie available mostly made on the west coast. Do you know of a source in the US for ginger eau-de-vie? Here is a buying guide from Food & Wine for top Eau-de-vie producers…

  • December 3, 2012 5:41pm
    David Lebovitz

    kate: The two distillers that I know in the US, Clear Creek and St George might have something similar. I wrote a post about how to find things/foods mentioned on the site because I don’t know what’s often available in other place (which is linked at the end of this post) so perhaps you can check out some of my suggestions there to help you find it.

    (I used to buy it in the states and don’t think I paid more than $50/bottle, although with the exchange rate, it is likely more, although $170 seems excessive.)

    kristen: I tend to avoid anything with crowds in Paris for that reason. Hope your dry cleaning bill wasn’t insane ; )

  • Susan
    December 3, 2012 5:45pm

    I’ll be sampling Glühwein, both red and white, at the Frankfurt Christmas market this weekend. Must try the French versions after I get back to Paris, just for scientific comparison of course.

    Scandinavian Glögg, BTW, includes a generous proportion of brandy and/or aquavit as well as orange slices. Scandinavia is colder, so I guess glögg need to be stronger.

    Either way, cheers!

  • Allie
    December 3, 2012 5:47pm

    So excited that this recipe doesn’t include cinnamon or orange peel…I’m looking forward to trying it.

  • Fanny
    December 3, 2012 5:48pm

    Mulled wine which as previously mentioned is a Scandinavian tradition and made with vodka, and brandy sometimes madeira is added to the red wine. It is called Glögg.You can now buy a white version in Sweden which tastes as good.

    The recipe I use is from 1760 using red wine though.

  • Robert
    December 3, 2012 5:58pm

    The older I get, the less I like cinnamon.
    Happy to see it’s omitted in your recipe.

  • Cathy
    December 3, 2012 6:07pm

    I bought 2 bottles from a Lidl supermarket in London a couple of days ago. If I need some in an emergency and have leftover red wine, which I have stored in a fridge, I will put some in a mug, add some spices including a cinnamon stick and microwave. No overpowering taste of cinnamon.

  • Shelly Murphy
    December 3, 2012 6:07pm

    Accidently opened a bottle of red wine?? Cute. And I think I spy the debated and lovely brick wall in the background, right? It is curious how familiar I am/we are with your kitchen…the wonder of the internet. I hope you and yours have a peaceful and joyous holiday season.

  • Evelyn M.
    December 3, 2012 6:36pm

    Can you clarify if te cardamom is supposed to be left in the pod, cracked or crushed up? My husband and I disagree on hoe to handle this spice. Also, do you mash up the ginger slices in any way or just leave them as is?

  • December 3, 2012 6:38pm

    My husband (who’s French) and I have been making mulled wine at every opportunity! We like to simmer the spices (including cinnamon… does that make him a bad Frenchman?) with an orange peel and a small amount of the wine before pouring in the rest of the bottle.

    And a Christmas tip: mulled wine spices wrapped up in cheesecloth packets and paired with a few bottles of wine—we go for Trader Joe’s two buck chuck—makes an easy gift.

  • Jessika
    December 3, 2012 6:53pm

    What is bitingly cold in Paris?
    We had -18°C this morning, never rose above -15° during the cay.

  • Jessika
    December 3, 2012 6:56pm

    And living in Sweden, glögg-season starts late november and carries out through december (I don’t really liking glögg that much unless it’s homemade, commercial stuff is too sweet.). You should try to burn off sugar into it as well. Few do, 50 yrs ago it was required.

  • Poshepoche
    December 3, 2012 7:02pm

    Hi David, like the recipe ~ sans ginger for me, and probably with orange peel en plus ~ oddly enough I bought a “melange pour vin chaud” (produced by a French company) in my local Lidl’s here in the Charente, and it includes cinnamon, ginger, coriander, and various other unspecified spices. The pack cost me the princely sum of 1euro and at 100 grams is enough for a whole neighbourhood of mulled wine ~ one of the better ideas for the winter season!

  • David M
    December 3, 2012 7:20pm

    “Kate: The two distillers that I know in the US, Bear Creek and St George might have something similar.”

    David — it is “Clear Creek” not “Bear Creek.” Happily, the distillery is just a few blocks away from me in Portland, Oregon.

    Thank you for the clarification. I am not at home at my desk and was responding to commenters early in the morning and I’m friends with Jorg at St George, but wanted for give the folks in Oregon a shout-out, too. -dl

  • December 3, 2012 7:21pm

    Is it silly that I have heard of “vin chaud” but since I speak basically no French I never knew what it actually meant? :) Now i know, so thanks! And I love love love food52- always such bang on recipes. There is little better than an icy cold day and a glass/mug of hot mulled wine (with cinnamon, since I am an overbearing American) I’m absolutely filing this one away. Can’t wait.

  • Berit
    December 3, 2012 7:55pm

    Glühwein all the way, although the one on the Leipzig Christmas Market tastes like crap :D

  • December 3, 2012 8:43pm

    Seems like sth I will absolutely love. I can almost smell the aroma of the sweet wine and the spices. I think it will be hard for me to omit cinnamon, even thou its strong !!

  • Stephanie
    December 3, 2012 8:58pm

    I totally agree with the French about cinnamon!

    And I love mulled wine so I will be making this very soon! xo

  • suedoise
    December 3, 2012 9:53pm

    I thought I was the only Swede in David´s Paris fan club but when it comes to mulled wine there is quite a congregation.
    Where I live, along the utterly romantic park Buttes Chaumont in the 19 th the brasseries around it serve vin chaud with no fancy spices charging between 3 and 4 euros for the concoction.
    A large glass of very hot red wine comes with a slice of orange or lemon and
    using little cinnamon and cardamom. C´est tout, that is all.
    I always order mine without any sweetening (sugar or honey) which I can recommend, not sour at all. I have also had it with merely a slice of orange and it is still wonderful. There is some magic chemistry taking place when red wine is heated.

  • Torgny
    December 3, 2012 10:50pm

    David, being from Sweden as well, I have to recommend that you try your vin chaud the Swedish way: add a dried orange peel when heating it and add some blanched almonds and dried raisins (or currants) to your glass when serving it (in Sweden the drink is served with a small spoon to eat the nuts and fruit with). It combines a drink and a snack in one!

    And don’t heat the wine too much or you will simply boil off the alcohol, and that would be a shame!

  • Elaine
    December 3, 2012 11:43pm

    When I was young and had a bad cold or flu, my mother would make me drink hot wine (I don’t think she added any spices) and sent me to bed. Yes, I slept off whatever was ailing me,but I still can’t even think about drinking hot wine.

  • Lynnette
    December 3, 2012 11:54pm

    This is our second Christmas in Toulouse. Friday evening for the opening of the marchés de Noël, we had a celebratory cup of vin chaud and a barquette of aligot. And yes, it can be quite a feat wending one’s way through the masses holding a plastic cup of hot wine. Given that the vin chaud was 2,50€ and the aligot was 6,50€, we now make our own. My 17-year old son has become an expert in cooking up aligot. It’s our French comfort food.

  • December 4, 2012 12:25am

    I’ve made mulled wine before but always with cinnamon and never considered how overpowering the cinnamon can be, I’m excited to try this version.

  • Gavrielle
    December 4, 2012 12:30am

    Nothing to do with mulled wine (which sounds delicious), but I thought you might like to know you may have started a meatball craze in New Zealand:). We don’t have meatball sandwiches as part of our culture, so when I served your recipe to dinner guests at the weekend it was the first time they’d tasted them. “Hit” is an understatement. I’d wrapped them in paper, and even though they’d eaten too much they kept unwrapping them for another bite. I had to promise them they could take the leftovers home. Looking again into that food truck idea….

  • Carolyn Z
    December 4, 2012 1:04am

    For some of us who can’t drink, try apple cider mulled in a similar way warmed with spices of your choice including cinnamon and nutmeg. I know this isn’t French. Thanks for the ideas. Trader Joe’s has a nice apple cider now for the holidays.

  • Tamar Amidon
    December 4, 2012 2:20am

    The one reason I have 2 crockpots in the house is so I can have Vin Chaud in one and mulled cider in the other. Makes a holiday party warm and toasty :-)

  • December 4, 2012 2:26am

    Ginger eau de vie sounds delightful, David — I’m sure it takes mulled wine to another level. I like the star anise you have used as well: this might be enough for me to give mulled wine another try. Thanks.

  • December 4, 2012 4:33am

    This sounds perfect for a cold winter afternoon! I have a Christmas open house coming up soon, and I think this will be a hit with my guests.

  • December 4, 2012 5:01am

    I’ve keep hearing about this stuff but have never had it before. I look forward it to having it in Paris next month!
    Aren’t les terrasses heated by those outdoor lamps??

    • December 4, 2012 4:38pm
      David Lebovitz

      Some of the terraces in Paris are heated but mostly in the chic-er cafés. The city had considered banning those outdoor heaters, because they aren’t exactly ecological, but since so many people in Paris smoke, I think the cafés really fought to keep the right to have them.

      Still, many of the smokers congregate outside of the cafés in the middle of the winter, heaters or not, to smoke. (Which has created another problem, which is noise, because at night, the smokers outside tend to chat – and neighbors aren’t so happy about the loud noise around the cafés and bars at night.)

  • December 4, 2012 5:59am

    oh my goodness i do not drink. but this sounds so wonderful maybe i’ll just start.

  • December 4, 2012 9:23am

    I love mulled wine I was expecting to feast on mulled wine over Christmas in London but we are unexpectedly in Australia and will be spending Christmas in Brisbane. I have just decided that regardless of the heat I am going to make everyone mulled wine. It is surprising how many people in Australia have never even heard of mulled wine. Sad for them.

  • Michael Nielsen
    December 4, 2012 9:36am

    Here in Denmark we have a traditional drink along the same lines: glögg. Again made with warm red wine, but added are slices of almonds and raisins soaked for days prior in either port, cognac or snaps. Snaps is added shortly before serving. It’ll keep you warm in the scandinavian winter :)

  • December 4, 2012 10:55am

    In Greece in the island of Amorgos they make something which is calle “rakomelo” and means raki+honey. Raki is a strong spirit similar to grappa and is infused with honey and spices like cinnamon. Then just before you drink it you heat it up and it is so good especially during winter.

  • Dina
    December 4, 2012 12:05pm

    Why do people hate cinnamon? :( I think it’s because the more easily available is the Indonesian cinnamon. The Ceylon one is far more subtle, more fruity, has a more exotic taste & smell. If everyone had that, I doubt people would turn their nose away at cinnamon. I don’t know, I love cinnamon either way! For me, rice pudding is just a vehicle for cinnamon. LOL
    And thanks to everyone’s comments, now I want Glögg, German Glühwein, mulled mead and warm apple cider. Thanks everyone. LOL

  • December 4, 2012 1:00pm

    Can’t wait to try out the recipe! I was looking for a good vin chaud recipe to make on my return to the states so hopefully this works. Thanks!

  • December 4, 2012 4:27pm

    Thank you! I have missed this since we came home, and being allergic to cinnamon and pine trees, this time of year is tough for me in the US. Having my own “spiced” recipes is very comforting! I miss Paris, kiss her for me…

  • December 4, 2012 4:35pm

    Did you like it ? I totally agrre with what you say about cheap wines. When I watch some american cooking show, sometimes, they say to use a good wine for … and … WHile at home, I just use a normal one :)
    My father told me : “You can have a good wine for 4 euros a bottle. 6 euros is a good good wine. Most expensive ? It’s a Christmas gift.”
    And he’s right : I’ll offer him a good good GOOD bottle of wine for Xmas.

  • December 4, 2012 5:09pm

    Hello! I adore your blog. I’m wondering, would bourbon be too strong of a flavor to use instead of the ginger liquor? Or what about cherry liquor? Thanks! I can’t wait to try this.

  • Susan
    December 4, 2012 5:36pm

    Glad to hear a confirmation of my opinion that cinnamon has the tendency to take over the other flavors in most recipes. I thought that maybe I was just overly sensitive to it. I do like it a lot, it’s just a little goes a long way for me. I know I’m almost alone in that opinion as so many just love it’s flavor and add it so liberally. I’m happy to try this version of vin chaud as I’ve always avoided it because of the excessive amount of cinnamon used.

  • December 4, 2012 10:25pm

    Winter is the best time for all things food and drink. The cold outside mixed with the warmth of a mulled drink is one of the best juxtapositions of life. I love this recipe and will attempt it for our holiday party. Cheers!

  • December 5, 2012 12:39am

    I’ve made vin chaud as inspired by Jacques Pepin. Evidently it was common in the kitchens of his childhood, near Lyon. Of course, the wine was local :)

    Heat red wine in a saucepan along with one tablespoonful sugar per mugful…squeeze a wedge of lemon into the mug, drop lemon in…pour wine over.

    Warm and simple…real…in a busy, home kitchen.


  • December 5, 2012 12:43am

    I know what I’m getting all my friends for Christmas, a bottle of wine and an pack of all these ingredients with this recipe. I am sure they will love it! Thank you, my holiday shopping is complete!

  • December 5, 2012 5:07am

    I’m surprised this version doesn’t contain orange? I thought that was a pretty universal flavor in gluhwein/vin chaud/glogg? I have a gluhwein party every year in December- great night, ROUGH morning afterwards :)

  • December 5, 2012 7:14am

    Ginger=eau-de-vie…. There’s a ‘stocking stuffer’. :)

  • Lauretta
    December 5, 2012 4:19pm

    In the north of Italy this is a very common drink in winter. If you don’t want an alcholic drink, you follow David indications but at the end turn off heat and with a lighter you burn the alchol that is in the wine. It will takes you few seconds. Try it!!!

  • December 5, 2012 5:47pm

    Back in Ukraine, I remember making glintwein the way you described above your vin chaud. We added bay leaf also along with the spices above. Thanks for reminding me about this great entertaining option for the coming winter days. Happy holidays!

  • Rick
    December 5, 2012 6:18pm

    Sounds delicious on a cold rainy morning in San Francisco

  • Julia
    December 5, 2012 8:09pm

    Just add a slice of orange…

  • December 6, 2012 2:14am

    cozy bed, a fantastic book (preferably sweet life in paris!), vin chaud… what more could a girl want?

  • Dominique
    December 7, 2012 7:34pm

    This looks lovely. I think it would make a great little christmas gift to put the honey and spices in a small jar, all ready to go. I have a question: if I do that, do you think the fresh ginger would go bad over time? Would it make sense to replace with sliced candied ginger to be safe, or do you think it would be fine in the fridge for a few weeks with the fresh?

  • December 8, 2012 4:08am

    a simple recipe & I like the small amount of honey (as opposed to a lot of sugar). Thanks.

  • December 9, 2012 1:35pm

    Vin chaud saved my life this last week in Paris – it was freezing and I forgot my gloves! Luckily several glasses kept me warm.

  • December 9, 2012 9:10pm

    Having lived here in coooold Germany for just a little over one year, I have quickly come to love warm wine. I love cinnamon, but am intrigued with the idea of leaving it out of this recipe. I have a some left over red wine just waiting for this taste test. Gracias for sharing!

  • December 10, 2012 4:00pm

    The annual Christmas market has opened up here in Tokyo and I’ve been drinking a few cups of gluhwein every other day on my way home from work. Love it done with blueberry wine like the Germans do! I’ve also seen a hot apple wine done the same way. I prefer the red wine/blueberry wine mix, but the clear apple wine is a popular drink here as well. To me gluhwein = Christmas. I couldn’t do without it anymore than I could do without homemade eggnog!

  • December 10, 2012 7:26pm

    I would love some of that right now, winter, cold and all in Rome!

  • Dominique
    December 11, 2012 3:26am

    I’d like to upgrade my previous comment from ‘this sounds lovely’ to ‘this is delicious!’
    I’m having some right now, and it is mulled happiness in a cup. Thanks!

  • Eve Felder
    December 12, 2012 3:41am

    Hi David,

    Happy holidays. Trying to find your blog where you talked about a site to get Netflix internationally.

    Love from Singapore

  • Helen in CA
    December 14, 2012 5:17am

    What is meant by an entire star anise?

    I’ve only seen them in individual “stars” (look like stars, that is). Thanks

    • December 14, 2012 8:22am
      David Lebovitz

      An “entire” means “whole”, so use one entire star anise, rather than one of the individual pods on the star.

  • December 17, 2012 2:34pm

    We were in Paris for a short holiday last month and had vin chaud at every opportunity. One of the best we had was at the Cafe Les Arts et Metiers near the museum of the same name (also highly recommended).