For the red wine, you want something inexpensive, fruity, and not too heavy on the tannin. I used a Cotes du Rhone, but nearly anything would work – Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, lighter Syrahs. I’d avoid using the heaviest, most tannic reds – like Cabernet Sauvignon or the heaviest Syrahs – but most of those are more expensive that what you’d pay anyway for a mulling wine.
Mulled Wine (makes ~6 cups)
1 bottle red wine
3 cups of apple juice (100% juice - no added sugar)
8 teaspoons of honey
2 large (or 4 small) cinnamon sticks
1 whole nutmeg
12 whole cloves
12 whole allspice
1/4 cup brandy
juice from 1 small or 1/2 of a large orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1. Add the wine, apple juice, honey, and spices to a sauce pan and gently simmer it on the stove for 5 minutes. (Don't worry, not that much alcohol will actually cook off in that short a time! Of course, with all the apple juice, this is not a high-alcohol drink anyway.)
2. At this point, either turn the heat down as low as it will go, or transfer the mixture to a crock pot set to warm. The crock pot works very well for keeping everything warm over of the course of a party.
3. Then stir in the brandy, vanilla, and orange juice.
Taste and feel free to make adjustments. I like it just like this, but if it’s too strong, or too highly spiced for you, just add more juice or cider until it tastes the way you want. If you want it stronger, add more wine, brandy, or spices.
You can serve this right away, but it tastes even better after being kept warm for a few hours. Serve it with the spices, or strain them out as you fill individual cups. Leftovers will keep for a couple of days in the fridge, but remove the spices first so they don't continue to flavor the wine and become overpowering.
I've been wondering whether this recipe would also work with white wine. Have you (or would you) make mulled white wine?