`He has given us plenty of merriment… Here is a glass of mulled wine ready to our hand at the moment; and I say, “Uncle Scrooge.”
`A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to the old man, whatever he is.’
– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
And with that, the tradition of serving mulled wine at Christmas was sealed. Although the heated and spiced beverage has been around in some form since first century Rome, it wasn’t until the 14th century where its popularity caught fire across Europe. In England, the name “mulled” wine came from an arcane variation on the word “muddled.” In Germany, it’s “glühwein” (glow wine), in France “vin chaud” (hot wine) and in Sweden, simply “glögg.” Whatever you call it, the blend of red wine, spices and perhaps a bit of brandy has been warming bones the world over for centuries and when Dickens name-checked it in a toast to old Uncle Scrooge, it became an inextricable part of the holiday season.
Truth be told, you can come pretty close to this recipe by bringing the ingredients to a boil on the stove and then simmering for ten or fifteen minutes. The flavors will come together pretty well and you’ll be toasting the old man a little earlier, but there’s a reason for slow cooker mulled wine that goes beyond what’s in the cup and it’s this: Your house will smell amazing. Whether you’re decking the halls for a Christmas party, wrapping presents or hunkered down on a cold winter night with a good book, the smell of mulled wine is exactly what the holidays are supposed to smell like. And, not for nothing, Scrooge’s nephew was on to something when he branded mulled wine as the official drink of the holidays. It is warm, it is soothing and it is Christmas in a cup.
Another great thing about this holiday drink is that it’s hard to get it too far wrong. As written, this recipe hits the holiday nail on the head, but it can be tweaked endlessly. No star anise? Try a little cardamom. Add a little orange juice instead of apple cider, throw in a splash of vanilla extract or float some fresh cranberries in there. You can even skip the brandy and swap grape juice instead of wine for a non-alcoholic version (although, admittedly, it lacks that certain something).
Looking for that perfect hot beverage for a snowy Christmas eve or need an to add a little seasonal spirit to a holiday gathering? Slow cooker mulled wine takes about 5 minutes to put together and will fill the senses with the spirit of the holidays all evening long.
Slow Cooker Mulled Wine
1 bottle red wine (we used Shiraz)
1 cup apple cider
1/3 cup brandy or bourbon
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 oranges, thinly sliced
8 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 2-3 hours.
Ladle into mugs and garnish with orange slices and cinnamon sticks.