Mulled wine is a winter tradition popular around the world, especially during Halloween and Christmas. In Scandinavia, it is called glögg (pronounced “glug”), which simply means “heated up.” In Germany, it is known as Glühwein, “glow[ing] wine.” In Poland, it is grzane wino or “heated wine,” and in Italy, vin brulé, “burnt wine.” The French and the Spanish call it vin chaud and vino caliente, respectively—both terms mean “hot wine.”
Mulled wine is heated wine to which various spices have been added. It is usually sweetened with sugar and often a spirit, usually Brandy, is added. The ingredients added to the wine vary from country to country, but mulled wine almost always starts with a red wine base, usually one that is full-bodied and fruity. For traditional Christmas mulled wine, flavors of orange, cinnamon, and cloves predominate. Other spices such as nutmeg, vanilla, ginger, peppercorn, cardamom, and anise are also commonly used.
A version of mulled wine poplar in Medieval Europe was called Potus Ypocras. Legend has it that this name was in honor of the Greek physician Hippocrates who made medicinal remedies using wine, herbs and honey. By the 17th century, recipes for mulled wine became more complex and unique to specific geographic regions. The French liked using apples and almonds. The British typically favored Bordeaux with orange peel and cinnamon, though they sometimes added brandy and milk. Scandinavian recipes called for raisins, bitters, and blanched almonds. Swedish glögg became more of a punch, with brandy or sherry added. In Spain, Potus Ypocras inspired the creation of the warm-weather beverage sangria—red wine was brewed with ginger, cinnamon, pepper, and fruit, and then it was chilled and served cold. Today, North American versions of mulled wine frequently substitute cranberries and brown sugar for the traditional orange and honey ingredients in European recipes.