Vin Chaud, or mulled wine, is a delicious drink for winter nights. Red wine sweetened lightly with brown sugar and spiced with citrus, cinnamon, and ginger.
Vin Chaud is one of my favorite winter traditions here in Paris. Starting in November, Christmas markets (Marchés de Noel) pop up all over the city with vendors offering hand-made trinkets, local food specialities, hot chocolate, and of course, vin chaud. You curl your hands around your warm cup, sip, and wander through a wonderland of winter lights and tiny treasures. But lucky for me, the vin chaud offerings do not end with the closing of the Marchés de Noel at the end of December. You can still find vin chaud in bistros and pop-up booths near popular winter activities. Over the weekend, we sipped some in the adorable bubble bar on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower, toasting the new year.
Why Make This Recipe
- So cozy and warming! Vin Chaud is of course particularly delicious when sipped while walking the light-filled winter streets of Paris, but lovely in your living room beside a crackling fire as well. Maybe add some Chocolate Bark with Almonds to nibble on?
- Easy to make! In this vin chaud recipe, I add brown sugar, winter spices, lemon peel, and orange slices to a fruity red wine. The mixture is heated, strained, and then served with a twist of orange zest (if you’re fancy). That's it!
- Perfect for a crowd! Back in the States, I frequently made mulled wine as a winter party drink. My go-to recipe, this one from Ina Garten, cuts the alcohol content quite a bit by adding a good amount of apple cider before steeping the wine with winter spices. This French version may be a little more boozy, but I love how the taste of the wine really shines.
- Winter spices: I use cinnamon sticks, star anise, ginger, and nutmeg in this dish, but you can use any combination of those together. You might also try including cloves.
- Red wine: The best wine to use for vin chaud or mulled wine is a fruity red wine, such as a Pinot Noir or a Merlot. In France, wines from Bourgogne work well. The tannins in a very dry red wine (like a Cabernet Sauvignon) may become bitter when the wine is simmered. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on this bottle of wine, but you should buy something that you would drink by itself. And of course, tell your neighborhood wine vendor what you are looking for—mine pointed me to a very reasonably-priced Merlot I never would have seen had I not asked for a recommendation.
- Fruit: Different recipes call for different types of citrus—both lemon and orange are popular, though not lime. Typically I wouldn’t worry about choosing organic with a fruit that you will peel before eating, but since you will use the zest of your citrus, choosing organic to avoid pesticides is a good idea. At the very least, wash your citrus well before peeling or slicing.
Wash 1 orange and 1 lemon, especially if they are not organic. Peel a few strips off the orange, avoiding the white pith, and reserve for serving. Then slice orange into ½ inch rounds. Peel the lemon in long strips, avoiding the white pith.
Combine orange slices, lemon peel, a bottle of red wine, ½ cup brown sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise pod, a 1-inch piece of peeled ginger, and ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg in a large saucepan and bring just to a simmer over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves.
Turn down the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes to let the spices infuse. Then, strain wine through a fine-meshed strainer into a clean saucepan or remove the orange slices, star anise, cinnamon, and ginger with a slotted spoon. Keep over a very low heat. Serve warm wine with an orange twist and cinnamon stick in each glass.
🧐 Recipe FAQs
Yes, it is. Because you are not boiling the wine or cooking it for a long time, alcohol does not evaporate off. If you want to create a version that is not quite as alcoholic, try the mulled wine approach of adding some apple cider to your vin chaud.
In 2nd century Rome, wine seasoned with spices and then heated was first recorded as a drink. It then made its way through Europe thanks to those ambitious Roman conquerers. Today, in the United Kingdom, mulled wine and mulled cider are popular Christmas drinks. In German-speaking countries, vin chaud is referred to as Glühwein and often includes vanilla beans in its recipe. Some say its name, which translates as “Glow Wine” comes from the warm glow in your cheeks when you drink some. Others claim it was so named for the glowing red irons that were used to heat the wine hundreds of years ago.
Nordic countries drink Glögg, which is similar to the other mulled wines though sometimes also includes vodka, whisky, brandy, or rum. And other similar versions exist through many other countries across the globe. It seems that warm spiced wine is a winner everywhere.
👩🍳 Expert Tips
- Make sure the wine does not boil when you are cooking it. Boiling will negatively affect the flavor and cause some of the alcohol to evaporate. There should be small bubbles on the surface and some curls of steam rising from the liquid. Once you've got the technique down, try a warm version of my Apple Cider Bourbon Cocktail too!
- Use whole vs. ground spices whenever possible. In a pinch, you can replace whole spices with ground varieties, though I prefer to use whole. With whole spices, you can easily strain them out—that way you get all the flavor, without clouding the liquid or leaving a gritty residue at the bottom of the cup.
- Want to try another delicious holiday cocktail? How about this Wassail Recipe you can make in your slow cooker?
Other France-Inspired Recipes
If you like this recipe, you may be interested in more of my France-inspired recipes. Check out:
- Baked Brie with Fig Jam
- French Jarcuterie
- Frisée Salad with Baguette Croutons
- Hachis Parmentier (Shepherd's Pie)
- Puff Pastry Cinnamon Rolls with Apple
- French Lentil Soup
- Fig Salad with Blue Cheese
- Salade de Tomates
- French Yogurt Cake with Almonds
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below—I read them all, and your feedback is invaluable to me.
- 1 orange
- 1 lemon
- 1 bottle red wine (merlot, pinot noir, burgundy)
- ½ c. (100g) brown sugar
- 1 large or 2 small cinnamon sticks, plus extra for serving
- 1 star anise
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
- ⅛ t. freshly grated nutmeg
- Wash orange and lemon, especially if they are not organic.
- Peel a few strips off the orange, avoiding the white pith, and reserve for serving. Then slice the orange into ½ inch rounds.
- Peel the lemon in long strips, avoiding white pith.
- Combine orange slices, lemon peel, red wine, brown sugar, and spices in a large saucepan and bring just to a simmer over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves.
- Turn down the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes to let the spices infuse. Make sure the wine does not boil. Boiling will negatively affect the flavor and cause some of the alcohol to evaporate. There should be small bubbles on the surface and some curls of steam rising from the liquid.
- After 20 minutes, strain wine through a fine-meshed strainer into a clean saucepan or remove the orange slices, star anise, cinnamon, and ginger with a slotted spoon. Keep over a very low heat.
- Serve with an orange twist and cinnamon stick in each glass.
Spice Tip: Use whole vs. ground spices whenever possible. In a pinch, you can replace whole spices with ground varieties, though I prefer to use whole. With whole spices, you can easily strain them out—that way you get all the flavor, without clouding the liquid or leaving a gritty residue at the bottom of the cup.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 189Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 9mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gProtein: 1g
Nutrition information is provided as a general reference for users courtesy of the online nutrition calculator Nutritionix.