We were just playing tourists, walking the streets of Paris near the Sacre Coeur, in the chill of winter.
We were hungry, we were cold, so when we saw a sign, in English, for homemade hot wine, with a huge enticingly decorated pot sitting in the front window, we just had to stop.Jump to Recipe
It was exactly what we needed.
The little restaurant Grenouille was just delightful. The sandwiches were delicious, the service was almost unusually friendly. The microscopic bathroom was hilarious. We chatted up the waitress, and out of pure curiosity, I asked what was in the hot wine …
And she told me!
She even told me proportions!
She even went back to ask the cook to make sure she had gotten it right!
You have to understand, this is France, where customer service is often not a priority.
I was flabbergasted.
But elated just the same. Maybe she thought I was an American with a really good French accent and she wanted to be kind. I may be a French native but when I travel with my family I usually speak English with them so I may have sounded like a tourist.
After our warm drink, we left the place satisfied and much happier, now ready again to continue exploring Paris.
That was a couple of years ago but Grenouille is still going strong, making cold tourists warm and delighted. This easy mulled wine recipe sure has made my guests happy at our Christmas Eve party each year. Plus, it makes my home smell delicious!
So now I’m sharing it with you.
But What is Mulled Wine?
My best description of this festive drink is that it’s a hot sangria with Christmas spices. It’s just the perfect drink for the winter months.
Starting at the first sip, you’ll begin to feel warm from the inside. You don’t need to serve it with the orange slices, cinnamon sticks, or whole star anise in the cup. That’s just for pretty pictures.
You can, of course, prep some mugs and sliced oranges ahead of time. You can even warm mugs.
Fresh cranberries are also a good addition.
But it’s OK to just serve it naked …. No no no! Not that way! You can fill the glass or mug with just the spiced wine and leave all the colorful additions in the pot. It’s a little easier to drink without the optional garnishes anyway.
Mulled Wine Ingredients Substitutions:
The French mulled wine recipe called for a bottle of wine, specifically a dry red wine and a distinctive kind of French brandy called Armagnac produced in the Armagnac region in France.
If you have some, go for it. You can easily replace the Armagnac with your favorite brandy or cognac. I personally like Grand Marnier with its subtle orange flavor (and they sell it at Costco).
A cabernet sauvignon will work well with this mulled wine recipe. If you switch to a sweeter wine, like a pinot or merlot, you may want to reduce the brown sugar.
Over the years, I’ve chosen to use merlot and have halved the sugar in the recipe with success.
If you are preparing this recipe for someone with a honey allergy you can substitute the honey for maple syrup.
Feel free to also use a cheap red wine. Expensive wine is not required.
I usually double the recipe and warm it in a slow cooker over low heat for my parties. If you use a slow cooker too, make sure not to turn it on too early.
The more the wine cooks, the more alcohol will evaporate.
Of course, you can use a large pot or large saucepan. Just heat it until it’s at a low simmer. I cannot emphasize this enough. Low heat, rather than medium-high heat or even medium heat, is the way to go. And this is not a recipe for an Instant Pot.
The first year I made this at Christmas time, I made the mistake of leaving it in the crockpot for 4 hours before the party! There was no way to even get a tiny buzz from that batch, all the alcohol had burned off hours before.
You can, of course, always refill it as you go with a little more red wine or liquor every so often. Just make sure not to accidentally make burnt wine.
But I’ll give you the recipe as it was given to me, straight from the streets of Paris (better than Food Network) and you can decide on your own substitutions.
I do recommend keeping the beverage warm. It loses some of its spice (and magic) when it hits room temperature.
French Mulled Wine Recipe
French Mulled Wine - Vin Chaud
- 1 bottle dry red wine Like a Cabernet (175 ml)
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 125g
- 1/2 zest of one lemon
- 1/2 lemon rounds
- 1/2 zest of one orange
- 1/2 orange rounds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 1 whole clove
- 1 tsp fresh ginger
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1/4 cup Armagnac or other brandy
Pour all the ingredients in a pot and heat for 20 minutes on low heat, making sure the wine doesn't boil.
Serve it warm by itself or with an orange slice.
You will love making this simple mulled wine recipe for holiday parties or even date night on a chilly winter night. If you are looking to pair this with a meal, pork chops go well.
It’s almost synonymous with the Christmas season for me. If I close my eyes while sipping I can imagine I am strolling through a Christmas market. That’s why this is one of my favorite holiday recipes.
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