Along with many other captivating concepts, I was introduced to mulled wine when I first watched Game of Thrones. My initial thought…”What is that and where can I try it?!” I was intrigued, to say the least.
In an effort to find a reason to craft this enchanting beverage, that year we planned a GOT-themed Christmas/New Year’s party where we turned our entire apartment into scenes from the show. One corner became Westeros, another was Castle Black, another Winterfell (where the North remembers), another Braavos…you get the idea. Image Source
I spent countless hours planning themed foods and cocktails to accompany each scene…one of which was that infamous mulled wine. Okay, okay, so you might know it better as “Old Bear’s Hot Spiced Wine”…but World Market didn’t carry that. So “Wintersaison Glühwein” (aka a traditional winter mulled wine) had to do. And honestly? I thought I had hit the jackpot! This concoction was the talk of the party, not to mention absolutely perfect for our cold San Francisco weather.
Then a year later, we traveled to Germany for Christmas. All we did for the duration of our trip was visit one Christmas Market after another…between the mystique of the winter weather and the magnitude of which the locals celebrated Christmas, I just couldn’t get enough. This was next-level celebration, and that’s saying something coming from a girl who grew up observing a whole season of Hindu festivals every single year.
While abroad, I had the chance to try German glühwein, the real deal, and I was absolutely blown away. It was hands-down the best holiday beverage I’ve ever tasted. Period. The depth of flavor and warming impact of that hot spicy wine in the ridiculously cold German temps…well, it was unbeatable. I had fallen in love and just couldn’t get enough. I still daydream about it every December…
So without further ado, let’s whip up a nearly-as-great batch to sip while we peruse the interiors inspired by this historic, fantastical, and world-renown drink, shall we?!
To begin, gather your ingredients…
Wine: I prefer to use a dry red.
Fresh oranges: One to slice and mull with the wine, one to use as a garnish.
Cinnamon: I love making mulled wine with cinnamon sticks, but you could whisk in some ground cinnamon if that’s what you have on hand.
Mulling spices: Whole cloves and star anise are my favorites, plus perhaps a few cardamom pods as well.
Sweetener: Sugar is classic, but I prefer to naturally sweeten mine with either maple syrup or honey.
Extra liqueur (optional…but not really): Similar to sangria, it’s traditional to spike your mulled wine with an extra bit of liqueur, you know, to start a little fire in your belly. 😉 I like to add a bit (let’s be real…a lot) of brandy, bourbon, or cognac.
To make the mulled wine, simply…
- Combine ingredients. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and give them a quick stir.
- Heat. Heat until the wine just barely reaches a simmer over medium-high heat. (Avoid letting it bubble in any way — you don’t want to boil off the alcohol. That kind of defeats the purpose…)
- Simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let the wine simmer for at least 15 minutes or up to 3 hours.
- Strain and season. Using a strainer, remove and discard the orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and whole spices. Give the mulled wine a taste, and stir in your desired amount of extra sweetener.
- Serve. Serve warm in mugs (or heat-resistant glassware), topped with your favorite garnishes.
I mean, seriously?! Red wine, spices, and spirits… it is the perfect blend of my three fave ingredients. What else does one need?! Absolutely nothing, if you ask me.
Now, while you bask in the aroma of that intoxicating beverage and slowly savor each warm sip, let’s chat interiors — spaces inspired by this concoction that simultaneously meld a sense of adventure with the purely blissful feeling of being home for the holidays.
Wondering what those might look like? Here are just a few that recently took my breath away…
#BestSippedWith: Moody and Magnificent Holiday Settings
Reminiscent of the depth of flavor in that gorgeous mulled wine, the dark walls in this cozy space create a deep, dramatic backdrop for an haute holiday celebration. The color palette is at once comfy (inviting me to curl up under a faux fur blanket and watch GOT reruns) and grand (encouraging me to sip that glühwein while savoring the stunning architecture around me). Opening presents in this space, by the twinkling lights of this oversized tree, mulled wine in hand and with classical Christmas music playing in the background… that would be a holiday dream come true.
#BestSippedWith: Relaxed and Regal Gathering Areas
“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” And mulled wine is a beverage best served hot. Can’t all of you Godfather fans just imagine this room full of the kingpins, sipping mulled wine over the holidays? What a sight that would be! Just like the warmth that cinnamon adds to both the taste and smell of our beloved holiday cocktail, the rich red hues in this room add a coziness that works in perfect harmony with the otherwise cool shades of blue throughout. A blend of colors, textures, and patterns nearly as perfect as the right combination of mulling spices, am I right?! It is relaxed and regal all at the same time.
#BestSippedWith: Opulent and Out-There Lounging Spaces
The textured wallpaper, ornate fireplace surround, and classic wall detailing scream tradition and opulence…all while the oversized cinnamon-toned chairs and checkered floor tile add a futuristic, somewhat out-there quality that just seems to work. An ideal imbalance of design…stunning! Plus, with the champagne colored backdrop of the walls and spicy seating, I’d be inclined to sit and sip mulled wine all day long in this space. And since it is pretty easy to lose count of the number of glasses of mulled wine you consume, tumbling from jolly to tipsy in mere moments (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…), you may very well be glued to that chair, soaking in your sensational surroundings this holiday season. But with an interior this gorgeous, who could complain?!
#BestSippedWith: Secret and Seductive Home Bars
Tywin Lannister said it best, “A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of a sheep.” And neither should a designer.
While I doubt that renown designer Kelly Wearstler received any criticism for this ingenious design “risk,” I do hope she was commended for the brilliance on display here… Image Source
A secret bar under the staircase guarded by two statuesque side tables?! Absolutely breathtaking. It commands the space while also maintaining a hidden, seductive vibe. This modern take on a space that our beloved GOT characters could only dream of — okay, maybe Tyrian could after a few glasses 😉 — would be the perfect setting for sipping some of that mulled wine…or adding another shot of liqueur to it, if you feel so inclined.
Daring, delightful, and down-right inspired. A sure hit with your guests this holiday season!
Now it’s your turn…
I have shown you a wide range of holiday design inspiration…moody and magnificent, relaxed and regal, opulent and out-there, secret and seductive. But now it’s YOUR turn. Which of these creative and courageous combinations speaks to YOUR design style?
Because this is the season of giving, I have put together my top picks for a lush, luxurious lounge area in your own home…each of them as stunning as the last, and versatile enough to work for any of the above aesthetics. So go ahead, treat yourself to any (or all…I won’t judge) of these fabulous finds…
#BestSippedWith: Bar Cart Essentials
- This Chopin Cabinet by Malabar Artistic Furniture is intense…just like Game of Thrones…the show that introduced me to mulled wine. The bar cart brings the facade of towering GOT exteriors into your own home bar while housing the necessary ingredients to make drinks like glühwein that warm you up and soften the mood. A conversation piece and cabinet all in one…couldn’t love it more! (Source)
- This Asclepius Collection Whirl Green Large Onyx Mortar and Pestle Set from France&Son would be the perfect way to blend up the whole spices for your glühwein. A bit old-fashioned, sure…but worth the extra effort? Absolutely! And when not in use, the green onyx makes a great addition to your holiday bar decor. (Source)
- Or if you’re someone who would rather boil the star anise and cloves whole, then this set of Spices and a Hammered Mulling Spice Ball by Williams Sonoma provides a simple solution…plus the stainless steel hammered ball on a thin chain is fitting for our GOT theme. Both functional and fabulous! (Source)
- Twine’s Mulled Wine Glass Set provides a very elegant, classy vessel for serving your carefully crafted (and strong, of course) mulled wine, garnished with a zesty orange slice and spicy cinnamon stick for some visual and tasty flair. (Source)
- Finally, once you’ve simmered that batch of delectable glühwein and poured the first glass, you need a way to keep the rest warm for sipping all day long, right?! This silver Mulled Wine Jug with Heater by Sagaform (courtesy of RoyalDesign) does the trick. It is both a classy way to serve your beverage as well as a practical way to keep it at the perfect temperature throughout your holiday gathering…or even just a day at home with family…whatever suits you. (Source)
Holiday mulled wine warms us from the inside out. It transports us to another place and time. It sets the mood for a magnificent holiday. It inspires us to think deeper about our surroundings. It reminds us that a little bit of spice, a lot of flavor, and a touch of drama are the perfect accents to both craft cocktails and interior design.
If you’re ready to warm up the winter and infuse your home with an aesthetic all your own, let’s chat. I’m excited to help you reimagine the place you call home by steeping it in personality, blending it with a few spicy ingredients, and concocting a design that delights you daily.
Let’s create something unexpected together.