Honey in History: Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine shutterstock 163962125

A cold-weather favorite nearly as old as civilization itself, many of us brave the winter season with a steaming mug of mulled wine. Traditionally made with red wine, spices and some sort of sweetener, mulled wine has been around since ancient times, and like many things passed from generation to generation, and even culture to culture, mulled wine has been molded and shaped into many variations in order to suit its consumer.

It is widely known that the ancient Greeks were lovers of wine, and so it makes sense that they would not want to see a single drop go to waste, even with a bad harvest. It is said that the Greeks would heat leftover, spoiled or weak vintage wine with spices in order to mask ill tastes.

In ancient Roman times, it is said that wine was heated as a way to help the body fend off the chill of winter and as the Empire expanded its territory and trade, new spices were introduced to the recipe. Fun Fact: instead of heating their wine over an open fire, the Romans would stick red-hot irons straight into their mugs!

Mulled wine as we know it really took off during the Middle Ages as it spread across Europe, and eventually around the world. During this time much experimentation was happening as people discovered new spices and natural sweeteners, like flowers, herbs, and honey, with the belief that they would be able to promote health and avoid sickness. Mulled wine was even popular among some of history's most notorious monarchs, including King Henry VIII of England and Louis XIV of France!

Eventually, favor for the beverage waned among the southern European countries, while it remained popular in places like Germany, Austria, and Sweden. Near the end of the 1800s, mulled wine began to see a resurgence and countries continued to create their own variations over the decades.

So how did the popular drink become associated with the Christmas holiday? It is rumored to be all thanks to Charles Dickens, who mentioned a popular mulled wine recipe (the "Smoking Bishop") in his classic tale A Christmas Carol.

Since mulled wine was created as a way to mask or disguise poor quality or a cheaper wine, honey is an ideal ingredient for the recipe. As a flavor balancer, honey naturally masks undesirable flavor notes to bring balance to other ingredients in a recipe. Try it this holiday season. Don't have a recipe? We turned to Pinterest for some tasty recipes and here are some of our favorites:

Tip: Swap out the wine for fruit juice for a non-alcoholic version.

Do you enjoy mulled wine during the holidays? Have a favorite mulled wine recipe? Tell us about it in the comments below!


Smith, Adrian. The History of Mulled Wine. Vivino: https://www.vivino.com/wine-news/the-history-of-mulled-wine

Hines, Nick. The Long, Storied History of Mulled Wine. Vinepair: https://vinepair.com/articles/history-of-mulled-wine/

Berry, Camille. The History of Mulled Wine. The Back Label: https://www.thebacklabel.com/the-history-of-mulled-wine/#.XA7IEBNKjL8

Alech, Alice. The History of Mulled Wine and How to Make It. Wine Frog: https://www.winefrog.com/2/1650/wine-styles/red-wine/the-history-of-mulled-wine-and-how-to-make-it