Bring Good Tidings with the Gift of Mulled Wine

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‘Tis the season for all of the warm cocktails. With the weather getting extra chilly outside, I have taken to anything that will heat me up from the inside out for cocktail hour.

Vertical image of two glass mugs of mulled wine with cinnamon sticks, pine cones, oranges, lemons, and limes on a gathered red cloth on top of a brown wood table, printed with orange and white text.

Currently, I am sitting here with extra layers on and my little space heater going full blast under my desk, getting excited to have another reason to make this mulled wine.

My husband had never tried mulled wine before last year. When he told me this, I was shocked.

How could he never have tasted the magical drink that is mulled wine? The flavor, the comfort, and the celebratory feeling you get when you drink it are all must-haves at this time of year!

Serving mulled wine was a Christmas Eve tradition for my family. Cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents would gather for the annual celebratory meal with warm mugs of deliciousness in hand.

It is a memory I treasure, especially since my grandfather would always sneak me a few sips…

Oblique shot of two glass mugs of mulled wine, on a red fabric surface with pine cones, citrus fruits, and whole cinnamon sticks.

The flavors of the warming spices, citrus, and bold red wine are natural companions, and heating this beverage brings them out even more. The scent when you make it fills your home with a tantalizing aroma, and you will never want it to go away.

Now, instead of simply making mulled wine and hogging it all to yourself (not that I would ever blame you for doing that…), you can give the gift of this fantastic drink to your friends and family for the holiday season.

This mulling mix in a jar is such a simple gift that anyone who receives it will totally swoon over. Instead of gifting premade packets that you can find at the store, our recipe includes a better variety of spices that are varied and complex, and no preservatives.

Overhead shot of two oranges, two lemons, three limes, and two bottles of red wine on a dark brown wood table.

This is such an exciting gift and it offers something a little different from the usual homemade canned and baked goods. Eyes go wide once they realize what is inside the jar, and the two bottles of red that you can include to make your gift complete are always appreciated.

I recommend customizing this gift to fine-tune it a bit for each recipient. If you know they don’t like sweet drinks, be sure to choose a dry wine that will balance out the sweetness in the mulled mix.

If you know the recipient likes a little more of a sweet taste, choose sweeter and juicier bottles to tie with ribbon and add to the package.

You can even think about bringing this mix as a host or hostess gift to a gathering – if you’re lucky, they might even want to make it as soon as they open it, to share with everyone!

A woman's hand with red manicured nails holds a glass mug of mulled wine, with a dark brown wood surface topped with a red cloth and oranges, limes, lemons, pine cones, and cinnamon sticks in the background.

Be sure to read through the notes provided below the recipe for some additional tips. You can substitute fresh citrus in lieu of the candied peel if you prefer. For an added extra-special touch, our homemade candied citrus peel is nice to include as well.

Regardless of how you make the mix your own or how you package it, you can rest assured that whoever receives your kind and thoughtful gift will be beaming with happiness. It’s the perfect addition to every holiday meal that is coming up on your calendar this season.

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Two glass mugs of mulled red wine, on a red cloth surface with whole cinnamon sticks, citrus fruits, and decorative pine cones, with a brown wood background.

Mulled Wine

  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x


With holiday music in the air, the gift of mulled wine mix in a jar alongside a few special bottles of red is the best way to bring the joy of the season to someone you care for.



For the Mix:

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup chopped candied citrus peel (orange, lemon, and lime)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 dried bay leaves
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (or 1/4 teaspoon pre-ground)
  • 1 medium whole vanilla pod
  • 2 whole star anise

For the Mulled Wine:

  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 2 bottles dry red wine (1500 mL)
  • 1 orange (if omitting candied peel)
  • 1 lemon (if omitting candied peel)
  • 1 lime (if omitting candied peel)


To Make the Mix:

  1. In a pint-sized mason jar, layer the sugar, chopped candied citrus peel, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla pod, and whole star anise.
  2. Seal the jar and gift with 2 bottles of dry red wine and a small bottle of orange juice.
  3. If you opt to skip the candied citrus peel, you can include an orange, a lemon, and a lime with your gift presentation instead.

To Make the Mulled Wine (with Candied Citrus Peel):

  1. Halve the vanilla bean pod lengthwise.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine the orange juice with the mulled wine mix and vanilla pod, and place over medium heat. Add just enough red wine to cover the sugar mixture.
  3. Simmer gently until the sugar dissolves completely, stirring occasionally. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Keep your mix at a rolling boil for about 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently until it’s thickened and syrupy.
  4. When thickened, turn the heat down to low, and add the remainder of the wine. Heat gently for about 5 minutes, then ladle into glasses and serve. Don’t boil the wine in this step, as you’ll burn off the alcohol.

To Make the Mulled Wine (Without Candied Citrus Peel):

  1. Peel half of the lemon, half of the lime, and the entire orange. Remove as much pith from the peeled pieces as possible.
  2. Follow the instructions above, adding the citrus peels to the saucepan along with the other ingredients.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Cocktails
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Christmas

Keywords: Christmas, mulled wine, hot beverage, cocktail

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Chop Candied Citrus Peel and Measure Remaining Ingredients

Chop enough candied citrus peel so you have 1 cup total.

If all you have on hand is candied orange peel, it is okay to only use orange. If you don’t have any on hand, make our own at home from scratch, or use fresh citrus peels instead. The fresh citrus will be added in a later step.

Measure out the remaining ingredients for the mulling mix.

Note: If you don’t have a vanilla bean pod, you can substitute 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Include this as an add-on to the gift to keep the mix dry. Do not substitute vanilla powder, which is meant for baking.

Step 2 – Make the Mix

A mason jar filled with a layer of sugar at the bottom, topped with candied citrus peel, on a dark brown wood table against a brown striped wood backdrop.

Add the sugar to a pint-size mason jar.

Vertical image of a mason jar filled with layered sugar, candied citrus peel, and whole spices, on a dark brown wood table against a striped brown background.

Layer the candied citrus peel on top.

Overhead shot of a jar filled with candied citrus peel and dried bay leaves, on a dark brown wood table.

Follow this with the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, vanilla pod, and whole star anise.

Overhead shot of a glass jar filled iwth whole bay leaves, star anise, citrus peel, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla beans, on a dark brown wood table.

Add a sprinkling of ground nutmeg on top.

Overhead shot of a glass jar filled with candied citrus peel, bay leaves, and ground nutmeg, on a dark brown wood table.

Seal the jar.

Step 3 – Gift the Mix

To package the mix for gifting, I like to decorate my jars with a ribbon and a label to indicate what’s inside, and how to prepare it. Don’t forget to print the appropriate instructions for making the mulled wine, depending on whether you are using fresh or candied citrus peel.

Package each jar with two bottles of dry red wine, a new corkscrew or wine opener, and a small bottle of orange juice if it will be opened and refrigerated in the near future. Whole citrus and homemade vanilla extract make nice additions as well, if you choose to make your mix using one of those variations.

Vertical image of two bottles of red wine, a jar of sugar, candied citrus peel, and mulling spices, and a glass bottle of orange juice with a red plastic lid, on a dark brown wood table with a brown striped wood background.

When selecting the wine, choose a bold variety with a high quantity of tannins. Avoid pinot noir when making your selection.

It is up to you whether you would like to choose one that is sweet or dry, though if you are making the mix with candied citrus peel, remember there will be some extra sweetness in addition to the sugar in the mix.

Some of our top suggestions are from Wine Insiders Club, with subscriptions that offer mixed, white, or red-only cased of assorted, expertly selected bottles. You can learn more about a few of our favorite options at the end of this article, so keep reading!

Step 4 – Make the Hot Beverage

Start by halving the vanilla bean pod lengthwise.

Closely cropped shot of an enameled stock pot of orange juice, vanilla beans, whole cinnamon and star anise, bay leaves, and candied citrus peel, on a dark brown wood background.

Note: If you are using fresh fruit instead of candied orange peel, peel half a lemon, half a lime, and the entire orange. Remove as much of the white pith as possible.

Top-down closely cropped image of an enameled stockpot with red wine, whole cinnamon sticks and star anise, vanilla beans, and orange peel at the bottom, on a dark brown wood surface.

Add the orange juice, mulling mix, and the vanilla bean pod to a large saucepan and place it over medium heat. If using fresh peel, add it now. Add just enough red wine to cover the sugar.

A red and off-white enameled stock pot of reduced wine with whole bay leaves and cinnamon sticks, on a dark brown wood surface.

Simmer the mixture until the sugar dissolves, stirring every so often.

Once the sugar is dissolved, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a rolling boil for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The mixture should be thick and syrupy.

Once it has thickened, reduce the heat to low and add the remaining wine.

Dried bay leaves and star anise are floating in red wine in a red enameled pot with a cream-colored enameled interior, on a dark brown wood surface.

Heat gently for 5 minutes, but do not to bring it to a boil as you’ll burn off the alcohol. Ladle into glasses and serve.

If you like, you can strain the warmed drink through a fine mesh sieve to remove the peels and spices, and transfer it to a slow cooker to keep warm throughout the evening. I prefer to ladle carefully instead, since the citrus and spices will continue adding flavor to the mixture.

Choosing the Right Wine

When you are selecting the wine to use with this mulled wine mix, be sure to choose a variety that is juicy, bold, and high in tannins.

Here are a few of our top suggestions currently, a handful of the many bold and delicious reds available from Wine Insiders.

Check to see if this convenient wine-by-mail delivery and subscription service is available in your state. It’s an easy way to try new varieties throughout the year, and a subscription makes a lovely holiday gift.

Two glass mugs of mulled red wine, on a red cloth surface with whole cinnamon sticks, citrus fruits, and decorative pine cones, with a brown wood background.

Which type of vino will you choose to make this classic holiday beverage? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to come back to rate the recipe when you try it for yourself.

Looking for other tasty holiday adult beverage recipes? These should quench your thirst:

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Adapted from a recipe by Lorna Kring originally published on December 16, 2015. Last updated October 13, 2022.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

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