If you have ever been in France in the winter, you may have noticed that tantalising phrase on French brasserie menus: Vin chaud. Hot wine? Rather, vin chaud translates to mulled wine and harkens back to olden days, when the wine may not have been particularly, and thus spices and sugar were added to it to make it more palatable.
On those freezing cold winter nights, there is nothing like having a warm cup of vin chaud in your hands.
Glühwein, Glögg, and Other names
Also known as Glühwein in next-door Germany, vin chaud is a European and French winter classic. History reports that mulled wine dates back to the days of the Roman Empire where the wine was heated and then spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, and sugar were added. From there it spread across Europe, with each country adapting the recipe and adopting it as their own.
The British call it mulled wine or hot spiced wine, while in Scandinavia it is called Glögg. In Italy, it is vin brulé (burnt wine) and in the Netherlands, it is bisschopswijn (bishop’s wine).
Interestingly, I haven’t seen it all that much in North America or my native Canada, where you can imagine it gets very cold! After living in France for 10+ years, however, I can tell you that this is one traditional winter beverage that needs to be adopted around the world 😉 Alright, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but can you tell it is one of my favorites?
Often drunk at Christmas, it is served in France as soon as the cold weather hits. (Note, there is no French version of eggnog.) Sitting at a café terrasse in Paris, with a cup of vin chaud in your hands, is the perfect way to catch up with friends. Or at an evening apéro at someone’s home, in the middle of a winter storm. There is no wrong way, is there?
What type of Wine to use?
Vin chaud in France is usually made with red wines that are young and fruity. Choose wines that is not over 4 years old, as it tends to lose its fruity flavor as it ages. Avoid heavier wines from Burgundy that are high in tannins.
Remember, you don’t need that expensive bottle of Paulliac, save that for dinner!
Spices and Other Ingredients
Every chef has their own combination of ingredients, but the basic spices in a vin chaud are cinnamon, star anise, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, and sugar. You can also add a touch of orange or citrus lemon if you wish.
For a stronger version of vin chaud, add a dollop of cognac.
Non-Alcoholic Vin Chaud
This may sound counterintuitive, but you can make vin chaud without the wine. Using grape juice, add a splash of raspberry, cherry, or blueberry syrup as well as redberry or blackberry juice for a bit of tang. Since the juices are quite sweet, limit the addition of any sugar.
After about ten minutes of heating (without boiling), let the spices infuse for at least 15-20 minutes, so that the beverage gets a chance to rest before serving. You find the non-alcoholic mulled wine recipe here.
Frequently asked questions
How to serve Vin Chaud?
Typically in France, Vin Chaud is served in a see-through mug, usually with a handle to hold like this set here.
Serve the mug with a stick of cinnamon or a slice of orange for decoration.
- 1 bottle of red wine (75 cl)
- 1 orange
- 1-2 cinnamon sticks (plus any additional cinnamon sticks for decoration)
- 1/4 cup of brown sugar
- 2 whole star anise
- 2 cloves
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1 cardamon pod
- small pinch of grated ginger
- 1/4 cup of cognac
- Wash the fruit and cut it into slices.
- Pour the wine into a saucepan and dissolve the sugar with the red wine at a low temperature.
- Add the orange slices, the spices and any optional ingredients into the saucepan.
- Keep the mixture on low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the mixture to froth or boil.
- Turn off the heat and let the wine infuse and rest for 5 minutes.
- Strain the wine through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan or pitcher. (You can throw out the spices.)
- Serve while warm.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 166Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 9mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 1gSugar: 10gProtein: 0g
Note: We are not certified nutritionists and these estimates are approximate. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. This website is written and produced for informational purposes only.
If you enjoyed that, check out our other easy French recipes that are classic and easy to prepare. Bon appétit and à bientôt !
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