Vin chaud (French mulled wine) is an iconic Christmas drink. It’s lightly spiced, just sweet enough, and spiked with a splash of Cognac to keep you extra warm.
If it’s the holiday season and you’re in France, chances are good you’ll stumble past some Christmas markets selling local artisan foods and big styrofoam cups brimming with vin chaud. It perfumes the streets and it’s a must if you’re out and about on a cold evening! There’s no better way to embrace the joyful, festive feel of Christmas than homemade vin chaud. It’s so easy, so flavorful, and such a great way to create cozy memories of your own.
what is vin chaud?
Vin chaud is simply French mulled wine. In English, it means “hot wine” and can really be any style of mulled wine. When I lived in France, I remember the wine being softly flavored, sweet and often spiked with brandy; but there are just as many variations of vin chaud recipes as there are wines!
The important part of making your own vin chaud is to start with a smooth, soft red wine and then tweak the sweetness and acid to your liking (and to the specific bottle of wine on hand).
How do you pronounce it?
Vin, meaning wine, is pronounced “voh(n)” and chaud, meaning hot, is pronounced “sho”.
what you need for vin chaud:
- red wine
- star anise
- black peppercorns
how to make the best vin chaud:
- Pick the right red wine! I’m a former winemaker and wine nerd, so trust me on this. The variety you use really matters here, specifically for the level of tannins. The heat will exacerbate the feeling of dryness and astringency caused by tannins: the lower the tannin level, the better in the case mulled wine (and any hot alcoholic drink, for that matter). Read on for more specific recommendations!
- Use a variety of spices: I use an array of spices to add depth and complexity, but not a lot of any of them. I love the flavor they add, but I still want to taste the fruit of the wine. Less is more!
- Low and slow cooking: It’s important to cook the wine as low as possible and covered with a lid. The balance here is to minimize the alcohol evaporation but speed up the flavor extraction from the spices. Don’t let the mulled wine simmer, and keep it covered as much as possible so the alcohol that does evaporate can re-condense on the lid and drop back in the pot.
- Honey and orange: Just enough honey and fresh squeezed orange juice add sweetness, fresh citrus, and a touch of acid to brighten the flavors. Taste and adjust the balance as you go-- every bottle of wine is different!
- Cognac: We love to finish our vin chaud with a splash of Cognac. For one, it compensates for any alcohol we lost during cooking. It also adds another layer of fruity aromas. If you don’t have Cognac on hand, substitute your favorite brandy.
what wine is best for vin chaud?
The perfect red wine for vin chaud is soft, supple and juicy. It’s okay if that's not your typical preference for dry red wines-- vin chaud is a different animal. The hot alcohol makes tannins more noticeable and everything more harsh.
Stick with low tannin reds for vin chaud and other mulled wine recipes if you want them to be smooth and delicious.
Below are some varieties that would be great to try!
- Zinfandel/ Primitivo
Don’t use expensive wines here. I typically find a wine that ranges from $8- 12 for this vin chaud recipe. They’re affordable, balanced and flavorful.
Remember: the acid, sugar and tannin balance is different in every wine, regardless of the variety. It all depends on where the grapes were grown, when they were picked and how they were vinified, blended and aged. So taste your wine and adjust the balance with more honey or orange juice, if needed, to get a delicious vin chaud.
make this mulled wine in an Instant Pot!
Put everything in the Instant Pot. Lock the lid, cook on HIGH for 1 minute. Cancel the program. Carefully release the pressure-- the steam will contain alcohol. Remove the lid, strain off spices and stir in Cognac. Enjoy!
You could also use the slow cook function on the Instant Pot for at least 20 minutes and up to several hours.
what should I eat with vin chaud?
We love to enjoy mulled wine as an after dinner drink with some salty snacks like popcorn, crackers, or a cheese plate. Try it with these spicy roast nuts or honey baked camembert to really get in the holiday spirit!
more hot alcoholic drinks for winter to try!
Watch our warm winter cocktails web story here!Print
vin chaud (mulled wine)
This vin chaud recipe is lightly spiced, sweetened with a touch of honey and spiked with a splash of Cognac. The best Christmas cocktail!
- Prep Time: 2 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 22 minutes
- Yield: 5
- Category: Drinks
- Method: Mulled
- Cuisine: French
- Diet: Gluten Free
- 1 750-mL bottle red wine
- ¼ cup honey
- juice of 1 orange (about ¼ cup)
- 2 wide strips of orange zest
- 1 star anise
- 3 whole cloves
- 3 cardamom pods
- 1 2-inch piece of ginger
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- ¼ cup cognac, plus more desired
- orange twists, for garnish
- Combine red wine, honey, orange juice, zest and spices in a large saucepan over very low heat. Gently cook, covered, for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour. Don’t let it simmer. The longer it steeps, the more intense the flavors.
- Remove from heat and stir in Cognac. Pour wine through a fine-mesh strainer into mugs and serve with an orange twist.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
- Serving Size: ¼th of recipe
- Calories: 204
- Sugar: 16g
- Sodium: 6.9mg
- Fat: 0g
- Saturated Fat: 0g
- Unsaturated Fat: 0g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 19g
- Fiber: 0.1g
- Protein: 0.2g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
Keywords: vin chaud