Mulled wine is the perfect excuse to drink wine from coffee mugs. Not only does vin chaud warm bitter hearts and cold fingers as frosts arrive, but its coffee-like steam makes it an acceptable day time libation as well. In fact, the steaming red beverage has actually been the excuse for drinking from atypical vessels for millennia. Yes, millennia. Since the Egyptians first deemed warm, spicy wine the elixir of the after life around 300 B.C. mulled wine—in all its forms and flavors—has been keeping humans warm and happy through cold seasons, mugs in hand.

Along with Cleopatra, Greek philosopher Hippocrates was known for prescribing spiced wine as a medicinal tonic, and Pliny the Elder also wrote about the merits of warm and spicy spirits known as Piment during the Roman era. During the Middle Ages, Europeans often referred to mulled wine as “Hippocras,” in memory of the famed Hippocrates, filling cauldrons of wine with long pepper, bay leaves, and cardamom, which were then strained through conical filters invented by the famed Greek. Even Sangria used to be hot.

In the 1590s, recipes for mulled wine were first published in English journals, where honey was used to sweeten French Clarets shipped in from Bordeaux. Aristocrats of the time opted for newly-available cane sugar-sweetened mulled wines to flaunt their status. Beyond the obvious buzz, adding spices–classics included pine resin, figs, coriander, and mint–made astringent, oxidized wine palatable, avoiding a costly waste of calories in ancient times. Likewise, even bad wines were often safer for drinking than water, making warmth an added bonus.

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The term “mulled” simply means warm and spiced, and that ambiguity along with Europe’s vast wine traditions means there’s incredible variety even in “traditional” mulled wine additives. Three ingredients remain common across traditions: red wine, baking spices like cloves, and citrus.

Below, a country-by-country guide to mulled wine, and a simple recipe to make chilly fall evenings more festive and keeping the heating bill down. Simply, start with with a good (but not fantastic) bottle of red wine–Rhône blends or Tempranillo work well– and a crockpot or heavy bottomed pan. Toss in a combination of spices, and set off on a vinous fall adventure.

The Classic French Vin Chaud


  • 2 Cinnamon sticks
  • 20 whole cloves
  • 1 Sliced orange
  • 1/2 cup Cognac

Portuguese Vinho Quente


  • 1/2 750mL bottle red port
  • 1/2 750mL bottle Madeira
  • 1 orange, sliced thin
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 cloves

Spanish Vino Caliente:


  • 1 clementine with peel, sliced
  • 4 strips of lemon peel
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved
  • 1/4 cup Brandy de Jerez
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg

German Glühwein:


  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 cardamom pods

Medieval Hippocras:


  • 2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
  • 24 cloves
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 long pepper (available at spice stores)

Cleopatra’s Elixir of Life:


  • 4 large sage sprigs
  • 3 large mint sprigs
  • 3 figs, chopped
  • 10 cloves

Nordic Gløgg:


  • 1 750 ml bottle red Port
  • 1/2 750 ml bottle brandy
  • 25 whole cloves
  • 10 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 tsp. cardamom seeds
  • 2 cups sugar
  • zest of 1 orange

Ancient Roman Piment:


  • 10 strands saffron
  • 1/2 piece ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 1/4 cup honey