Grim's Grub: Get ready to mull around during the holidays

Mulled wine - the festive, hot holiday drink you may have forgotten

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

It's finally starting to look like our winter will be more white than brown, but either way I expect we'll see some cold outdoor temperatures. What better way to warm ourselves than with hot, festive drinks.

Of course, we all know about teas, hot cocoas and apple cider drinks, but then there's mulled wine, a nearly forgotten alternative invented by the Greeks, those festive party animals who still inspire college students to dress up in bed sheets and get tipsy.

The Greeks invented mulled wine as a way to use less than stellar wine. If a batch didn't turn out well, it was flavored with flowers, fruits, sweeteners and spices and then heated before being decanted and drunk. These additives not only improved the flavor, but were believed to have medicinal properties, hence why mulled wine was once called "hippocras" after Hippocrates, the father of medicine.



Romans drank mulled wine in the second century as a means of warming their bones in the winter. Conquering Europe, after all, was tiring and they needed something both warm and alcoholic to fuel them as they cut farther and farther north throughout the continent.

Wine was mixed with spices and fruit to liven up its flavor as inspired by the Greeks. One fifth or sixth century Roman recipe called Conditum Paradoxum is still known today. Surprisingly, it nearly fell out of favor even in Europe. If not for Sweden, where it remained popular and branched off into various versions, it might be even less known today. The Swedish developed different styles, including Claret, a mix of wine, sugar, honey and spices; and Lutendrank, which included milk.

But in 1609, a drink called glogg appeared in recipe books and eventually reigned as king of the mulled wine craze. In the 1890s, says glogg became tied to Christmas and once again spread throughout Europe as a festive drink for the cold winter. Not only that, with citrus and spices, this nearly forgotten beverage was (and still is) a great way to spruce up cheap wines.

Mulled wine continued to grow in popularity in Europe, where it is again a familiar drink. Charles Dickens wrote of a version of mulled wine called "Smoking Bishop" in "A Christmas Carol," which helped to elevate it to higher popularity once again.

Conditum Paradoxum

A fifth or sixth century recipe by Apicius (measurements not included)

  • One part wine
  • One part honey
  • Peppercorns
  • Bay leaf
  • Saffron
  • Dates

Mix one part honey and one part wine in a pot and boil it to reduce it down by one quarter. Add whole peppercorns, bay leaves, saffron and dates and allow to infuse the hot liquid 10 minutes before filtering and serving.



Mulled Wine

Courtesy of

  • 2 bottles of cheap red wine
  • 2 shots port
  • 3 oranges, cut into fifths and stuffed with cloves (plus wedges for serving)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 2-5 tablespoons of brown sugar.

Heat all of the ingredients in a large pot over gentle heat for 20 minutes. Do not boil the beverage or you will evaporate the alcohol. Once hot, strain the mixture and serve with orange wedges as garnish.
Nonalcoholic Mulled Wine Alternative

  • 46 ounces grape juice
  • 1 orange sliced (plus another orange slice for garnish)
  • 5 whole star anise
  • Whole cloves (optional)
  • 3 cinnamon sticks

Simmer the grape juice with all ingredients for 20 minutes or until ready to serve, then filter it into a serving container when ready to serve. Garnish each cup with an orange slice.
Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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