This cozy and delectable mulled wine with caramel vodka will be a hit at any holiday gathering. It’s the right amount of sweet and fruity!

Large saucepan filled with mulled wine, cranberries, cinnamon sticks, orange slices, and star anise.

Taking mulled wine up a few sweet notches.

I’m definitely a fan of traditional mulled wine. But since making one exciting spur-of-the-moment swap a few years ago, I haven’t looked back—and probably never will. The trade? Caramel-flavored vodka in place of brandy. Brilliant! In essence, this mulled wine with caramel vodka is the warm lovechild of my Cranberry Orange Sangria and my Caramel Apple Sangria. Two fantastically festive cocktails to serve over the holidays. But if I’m being honest, this mulled wine wins. It’s boozy, fruity, sweet, spiced, and it warms the cockles of your heart. Not to mention, it’s absolutely gorgeous.

What is mulled wine?

Mulled wine, or ‘spiced wine’, is red wine that’s been carefully heated with brandy, a medley of spices, and fruits. It can be enjoyed hot or lightly warmed and, because of this, is considered a cozy winter drink—primarily around the holidays. As far as flavor goes, mulled wine definitely does taste like wine, but there’s a lot more going on with the fruity, sweet, and sometimes smoky notes. Because the drink is warmed prior to serving, the flavors are quite full-bodied, but sweeter thanks to the addition of fruits and added sweeteners like sugar, honey, or maple syrup. And the addition of caramel-infused vodka in this recipe? It makes all the difference.

Plate with orange slices, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and dip bowl of maple syrup next to bowl of cranberries, bottle of red wine, and bottle of vodka.

Ingredients to add to your grocery list:

  • Red wine
  • Caramel-flavored vodka
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Oranges
  • Cranberries
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Cloves
  • Star Anise

Here’s how to make mulled wine with caramel vodka.

In spite of the complex flavor profile, making this mulled wine is a cinch. But there are some things you want to consider, which I’ll include in the tips and tricks below. For now, here’s how to make this fantastic mulled wine infused with caramel vodka:

  1. Pour the red wine into a large stainless steel pot or a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven.
  2. Add the caramel vodka, then squeeze the juice of one orange into the mix. Stir everything.
  3. Pop the cranberries into the wine along with the orange slices, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves (see recipe tips and tricks for the best way to include the cloves).
  4. Warm the wine over medium-high heat to speed things up, but once the wine starts to warm, decrease the temperature to medium-low. Keep an eye on it, and once you can see steam, bring the heat to low, or transfer everything to a warmed slow cooker.
  5. Serve hot, or at least warm.

Vase of red berries next to large saucepan filled with mulled wine, cranberries, cinnamon sticks, orange slices, and star anise.

Equipment you’ll need:

Recipe tips + tricks.

  1. When choosing a red wine, stick with full-bodied wines like a California Zinfandel, Grenache, or Merlot. These sturdier wines can handle being heated without the alcohol burning off, and the aromatics play well with the spiced flavors of clove, cinnamon, and star anise.
  2. Stud one of the orange slices with the cloves to prevent cloves from floating around in the wine. The cloves aren’t as easy to spot and avoid as the star anise and cinnamon sticks.
  3. Heat the mulled wine slowly and only to the point of steaming. Don’t bring the wine to a boil, because you not only risk boiling off more alcohol, but the pith from the oranges can bring on bitterness when cooked. You also don’t want the cranberries to burst. The goal is the heat the wine through, not cook it.
  4. This recipe calls for pure maple syrup, but you could also use honey or agave nectar.
  5. If you need to keep your mulled wine warm over a lengthy period of time, transfer it to a warmed slow cooker. That way you don’t risk cooking it on the stovetop while trying to keep it warm on a burner.

Other festive holiday cocktails you’ll love:

Hope you enjoy!

If you plan on making this recipe, be sure to snap a pic and tag us on Insta! @killing__thyme.

Get the Recipe:

Mulled Wine with Caramel Vodka

This cozy and delectable mulled wine with caramel vodka will be a hit at any holiday gathering. It's the right amount of sweet and fruity!
5 from 5 votes

Ingredients

  • 1.5 litres full-bodied red wine, like California Zinfandel, Grenache, or Merlot.
  • 1 cup Caramel-flavored vodka
  • 2 TBSP Maple syrup, You could also use honey or agave nectar
  • 2 oranges, one juiced and one cut into sliced
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise
  • Enough cloves to stud around one of the orange slices, between 10-12 depending on the size.

Instructions 

  • Empty the red wine into a large stainless steel pot or heavy-bottomed Dutch oven.
  • Add the caramel vodka to the wine, then squeeze fresh orange juice from one of the oranges into the mix; stir.
  • Add the cranberries to the pot along with the orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and star anise, and cloves (see notes* for the best way to include the cloves).
  • Warm the wine over medium-high heat to get things going, and once the wine is warmed through and steaming, decrease the temperature to low. Keep an eye on it and make sure you don't bring it to a simmer or boil.
  • To keep the mulled wine warm over a long period of time, transfer everything to a warmed slow cooker.
  • Serve hot or warm.

Notes

*The best way to include the cloves is to press them into the pith around the orange so they stay secure and aren't floating around in the wine. They're not as easy to avoid as the cinnamon sticks and star anise, so you definitely don't want a clove to end up in anyone's glass.