Liquor In The Wine: Mulled Wine Redux


My very first Liquor in the ______ back in 2012 was my mulled wine recipe. Right now, I’m in Pennsylvania at my fiancée’s family’s house — back when I made this the first time, my fiancée was my girlfriend. Things change. Updates are required. In the intervening three years, a few things have changed about it. I’ve tried a few different iterations, one notable disaster using grapefruit my fiancée bought by accident (do not recommend) and one using pomegranates. That’s the one we’re going to make today.

You will need:


  • one bottle of not-so-nice red wine (we’re using a Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup not-so-nice brandy (we’re using E&J — the cheapest bottle I could get of that brand)
  • zest of half an orange
  • the rest of that orange, broken up into smaller pieces
  • 8 pinches of cloves
  • two teaspoons whole allspice berries
  • two grand handfuls pomegranate seeds (hold the rest back for snacking)
  • a lid for your pot!

To properly de-seed a pomegranate, I favour the Alton Brown method. Slice the ends off and score the skins. Fill a bowl with water and break the pomegranate apart under water—that way you don’t spray yourself with red juice. Lightly but assertively brush the seeds off the rind, also under water. The rind floats to the top and the seeds sink to the bottom.


Throw everything into the pot. I’m serious. There’s no rhyme or reason, just put it all in the pot. Break the orange slices up so they release the juices. Squeeze your two handfuls of pomegranate seeds to break the skins for the exact same reason (squeeze with your hands well inside the pot, though, or you’ll juice yourself!).


Give it a good stir, put the lid on the pot and put the mulled wine on low-low heat for about 25 minutes. You’ll smell when it’s done — very orangey and fragrant. Try not to lift the lid and stir or anything because the alcohol will escape, and I’m guessing you want that in there.


When it’s finished, ladle it into a heatproof mug through a strainer. Slice an orange into rounds, then the rounds into halves and float the orange across the top.


What’s changed since 2012?

Well for starters, my wine and brandy both got nicer. Not a whole lot nicer! My wine was $7 with no cork back then, and now it’s $11 and has to be opened with a proper corkscrew. While I stand by my suggestion of using not-so-nice wine, there is a bit of “you get what you start with” at play. Get something that’s drinkable even if you don’t mull it. Same with the brandy — the price point went from $15 to $22.

I’ve cut the cinnamon entirely because it upsets my fiancée’s stomach. That is the only reason it’s not in here. If you like cinnamon, then go for it! I’ve upped the brandy and downed the honey (I think my last recipe turned out too sweet), and increased the amount of clove pinches from five to eight (because I continue to be a clove monster). I have, however, cut the clove from the garnish because I actually thought (though I love the smell of cloves) that it was a little overwhelming.

The biggest difference is the presence of pomegranate in this recipe — another fiancée request and, to be honest, I have no idea why I didn’t use them before. Pomegranates are everywhere about the time of year that I want to make this. Why on earth didn’t I put them in before?! Ah, well, the mistake has been rectified.


What do you put in your mulled wine, lovelies? And what’s changed for you in three years? Happy Holidays and merry responsible drinking!

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A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.


  1. @callmequell can we make mulled wine again this year but use an actual recipe and not just literally whatever ingredients we can find in Guatemalan corner stores?

  2. Ohhhh hell yes. I just told my girlfriend last week that I really want to try making mulled wine this year. I am so going to try making this.

  3. The best thing about mulled wine (or similar cider drinks) is the way the smell makes everything seem cozy and festive!

  4. I love the idea of pomegranate! I’ll have to give that a go, though I can only find juices around, rather than the actual fruit. I wonder if kiwi fruit would work..

    Come to that, I should try concocting some mulled cider. (I might have some cinnamon bark around, from when I was experimenting with vodka infusions. Oooh, yes. Vanilla pods work really well too, and the vodka smells beautiful =:)

  5. hey friends, does anyone have a suggestion for replacement spices for the clove? I have an allergy (and also to nutmeg, and cardamom) but I desperately want to make mulled wine anyways. I may potentially just leave it out (sad, I know) but first I’m trying to come up with a replacement that maintains the ~integrity

  6. THANK YOU FOR THE POMEGRANATE ADVICE. I am now gonna make all the fancy salads without having seeds go everywhere. So cited.

  7. I just wanna say that Gnarly Head is like definitely a not-so-nice cabernet, but it is also my cabernet of choice, so seeing “not-so-nice red wine” followed by a description of my favorite under $20 cabernet made me literally laugh out loud

    • But also, this looks so warm and cozy and comforting and I can’t wait to try it. Question: By pinches of cloves, do you mean ground cloves? I have whole cloves but usually just grind them in my coffee grinder if I need ground cloves for something. Should I do that for this recipe? Or are whole cloves fine?

    • Ha, our not-so-nice wine of choice is Apothic. We feel like it’s nice enough with a nice price.

      And actually, I mean whole cloves! If you put ground cloves in, that might be to clove-y even for me. And I effing love cloves.

  8. This looks amazing, but mostly I want to say that that picture of the split oranges and pomegranate seeds in the pot is just so incredibly beautiful and otherworldly looking. Gorgeous!! Ah! So pretty!!!!

  9. I’m going to try this one, since I love mulled wine in all its forms, but my go to has:

    a bottle of cheap red wine
    at least 2 large cinnamon sticks
    a few allspice balls
    at least 4 cloves
    1/2 cup of cranberry juice
    a little water
    honey and/or sugar

    sometimes i add in some orange peel

    also i let it simmer for min 30 minutes. it’s fabulous.

    • Why do you put water in your mulled wine? I’ve never seen that before and rarely see it in mixed drinks. What’s the water doing for the recipe?

  10. So gf and I made this last night for new years, since our plans got canceled, and we ended up having a night in… uh… this stuff went over so well that we ended up missing midnight entirely.

    Still absolutely great, we ended up sitting on the couch just chatting, and blushing for hours~<3

    One note: we didn't have a pomegranate, and we used whole allspice and whole cloves instead… but it turned out so fantastic.

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