Sugar-Free Mulled Wine (Gluhwein)

Mulled wine or gluhwein is the perfect winter drink! This keto, low-carb and sugar-free hot spiced wine is a soul warming and very hygge recipe to treat yourself and the people you love!

I know that I can make keto mulled wine anytime and enjoy all year long… but, like my favorite hot chocolate, it just tastes better when the weather is chilly. It warms your heart, and your feet too! No wonder fall and winter are my favorite seasons!

Sugar-free spiced mulled wine in transparent mugs, with orange slices and star anise.

Mulled wine goes by many names, depending on where you are. In France, this Christmas market star is called vin chaud. In Portugal vinho quente. In the Nordic countries it’s glögg, gløgg or glögi. In the UK they have wassail and Smoking Bishop.

In the south of Brazil, mulled wine is quentão (super hot), a tradition brought by German immigrants, with their glühwein. It’s served in winter time, specially at the June’s Festivals. Actually while growing up I always had it for my own festival, because my birthday is in June 😉

That might sound strange, but I drank mulled wine from my early teens. Don’t blame my parents, it was the 80’s. Sweet and spicy hot wine was my first (and second, and third…) drinking experience, and made for the happiest memories.

Cups of mulled wine with oranges, cinnamon and star anise and Christmas decorations on the background.

Which is the best wine for gluhwein

You don’t need a fancy wine for mulled wine, but dollar store wine isn’t ideal either. I suggest you use an inexpensive wine that’s still good enough on it’s own, and with a strong personality – so it won’t disappear behind the spices.

Although, if you have been unlucky and ended up with a bottle of wine that sucks (it happens to all of us) I’m sure you’ll squeeze some enjoyment out of it if you use it for mulled wine.

Choose a keto friendly wine

To keep this mulled wine recipe low-carb and keto friendly, use a dry red wine. Dry red wines typically have just up to 4 grams of sugar per liter. Which translates to only 1 net carb per cup!

A good quality dry wine will only have some natural sugar from the grapes, just what was left over during the fermentation process, and no added sugars.

Glass of sugar-free gluhwein in hand.

The ingredients

To make keto friendly mulled wine, you’ll need 3 essential ingredients:

Dry red wine: although it can also be made with white wine, red is the most traditional. Dry wine is best for keto/low-carb because of the low-sugar content.

Mulling spices: these are the spices that are added to the wine while it simmers. I will show you a long list of spices to choose from, but don’t worry, you don’t need to add them all!

Sweetener: A good mulled wine needs some sweetness to round up the flavor. For this sugar-free recipe, instead of sugar (which your generic Christmas market gluhwein has obscene quantities of) you can use any keto sweetener you like.

Erythritol, allulose and blends work perfectly as substitute for sugar in keto mulled wine. You can also add low-carb, sugar-free maple syrup or honey.

Mit Schuss: An optional fourth ingredient is a stronger liquor to give it a nice kick. Make it mit Schuss, as the German say: with a shot!

Brandy is the most traditional and a personal favorite, followed by spiced or dark rum, but they do add a little bit more carbs than clear liquor like vodka or gin.

Happily, alcohol doesn’t have carbs! But sugar does. So, to keep this mulled wine recipe keto friendly, don’t add sweet liqueurs like Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Frangelico or Amaretto: these are often listed in gluhwein recipes, but are loaded with sugar!

Mulling spices

Traditionally used mulling spices for gluhwein.

Mulling is infusing warming spices and sometimes fruit into red or white wine, cider, brandy, and juices (for non-alcoholic versions). That’s why mulled wine is, well, mulled.

There are many spices and fruit, either fresh or dried, that are used for mulling wine. Different countries have their traditional recipes, but cinnamon, cloves and orange are almost always present.

Some mulling spices that I like to add to my keto gluhwein are pictured above. No, I don’t add all the spices I have in my kitchen 😄

By the way, if you don’t usually keep spices, or just have spice powders (which I DO NOT recommend using for mulled wine, I’ll tell you why below) you’d be glad to know that you can just buy a pack of ready to use mulling spice mix.

There are more spices, as well as fruit, that can be added to mulled wine. But not all of them are keto friendly. Some of them are apples, oranges, and dried fruit like raisins.

The taste of oranges is wonderful in mulled wine, and in many recipes you’ll see that orange juice is also added to sweeten it. To have the orange taste without the carbs, on this keto mulled wine I like to add the orange peel only.

Low-carb mulled wine served in warmed glass mugs.

Always use whole spices

This is the best tip to get a clear keto gluhwein that’s truly a pleasure to sip: always use whole spices for mulling!

Think sticks of cinnamon, whole cloves, and sliced fresh (or dried) ginger, instead of their powdered counterparts.

Even the nutmeg, if you add it, use a really sharp knife and slice off a couple of thin pieces instead of shaving/grating it. This will prevent powders and small grainy bits in the mug, without any need to sieve the hot wine through a mesh. Which can be messy, and even dangerous after a few mugs.

The whole spices can be easily removed from the mulled wine with a slotted spoon. You should remove the spices if you are going to keep the mulled wine refrigerated to serve it later on.

If serving straight away, either with a ladle or just by pouring the wine directly from the pan (which is really easy if you made the recipe in a pan with a pouring lip), there’s no need to remove the spices first. As the whole spices are heavy, they naturally settle down at the bottom of the pan.

Mulled wine spices on a white plate.

How to avoid bitter mulled wine

Mulled wine might turn bitter when adding sliced oranges (or other citrus) with the mulling spices, because the white part beneath the colored peel, called pith, has a bitter substance.

So, to avoid the bitter taste in the mulled wine: if adding orange zest or slices in the pan, make sure to remove the pith of the orange peel.

If you just add the citrus peel/slices to garnish the low-carb mulled wine in the mugs at the time of serving, there’s no need to remove the white pith.

The best way of making mulled wine

After years of making mulled wine the easiest way possible (just adding all the ingredients to pan at once and cooking together) I came across Jamie Oliver’s method and, although a tiny bit more work, it does make an even better and more delicious spiced wine!

Normally you’d want to just very gently simmer mulled wine, never boil. But that is not the best way to extract the flavor of the spices. Some mulling techniques call for making a simple syrup with water where you’ll boil the spices first. I don’t care for adding water to my wine, though 😂

So, when I saw Jamie Oliver’s idea I decided to try and was sold! You basically add a small amount of wine, just enough to cover the spices and sweetener/syrup, and boil that first, before adding the rest of the wine and letting it simmer.

Step by step

Steps to make keto mulled wine recipe.

Add your choice of mulling spices and keto sweeteners to a saucepan, and top with just enough wine to cover the sweeteners (the spices will float). This will probably be about half an inch of wine, depending on the size of your pan.

Mix it over medium heat, until the sweeteners are fully dissolved.

Let it boil for 6-7 minutes. This will really extract the flavor from the spices. The mix will become a little bit thicker and syrupy.

Then, add all of the remaining wine, and the extra liquor if desired. When you notice that’s about to start simmering (a lot of vapor coming up and very tiny bubbles showing up on the sides of the pan), turn the heat down to the lowest setting, cover the pan, and let it gently simmer for 15-20 minutes.

The mulled wine is ready! Enjoy while it’s hot!

Mulled wine for a crowd

This recipe as written makes a small batch that serves 2 to 4 people, depending on how much they drink. To make enough for a larger gathering, you can simply scale it up as much as your largest pan holds. It’s that simple!

Double the spices/sweetener for double the amount of wine, then triple everything, and so forth and so on. The only thing that will change is the cooking time, after all it takes longer to heat up a larger quantity of liquid.

Two cups of keto mulled wine, with cinnamon sticks, star anise, and orange slices.

How to serve mulled wine

At a gathering, you can serve the keto mulled wine from a heated punch bowl. And it’s even better if it’s the type that keeps the punch warm. Like this feuerzangenbowle, which serves the German drink with the same name -it’s basically gluhwein with rum drizzled sugar on fire.

Always serve mulled wine in pre-warmed ceramic or glass mugs. Don’t use glasses for mulled wine, it’s going to be hard to hold them without burning yourself!

To keep this sugar-free spiced wine hot and tasty for a long as possible, use insulated cups. These double walled mugs like mine are the best!

Garnishes

You can decorate the glasses with slices of orange, star anise or cinnamon sticks. Also, add fresh berries for a festive touch: fresh cranberries or cherries (halved and pitted) are the best low-carb combinations.

Keto spiced hot wine in glass mug.

Take it with you

You can make this recipe and put it in a thermos! A insulated bottle keeps the mulled wine hot and portable.

I put this recipe in a vacuum flask and took paper cups with sliced oranges inside to serve the keto mulled wine over it while walking around the town with friends to see the Christmas lights. It was a night to remember!

Storage and reheating

If you didn’t finish the mulled wine, let it cool it down and then reheat it later on. Just make sure to remove the spices so the taste doesn’t get too strong and bitter as you reheat.

Reheat in the saucepan, on low-medium just until it’s hot enough. Or, you can serve the keto gluhwein in individual mugs and reheat in the microwave.

If you keep it just overnight, it’s fine to let sit outside the fridge, specially in winter.

It will also keep for up to 3 days refrigerated, but you’ll need to transfer from the pan into a glass bottle or container that can be closed.


Sugar-free spiced mulled wine in transparent mugs, with orange slices and star anise.

Low-Carb Mulled Wine (Gluhwein)

Yield: 4 mugs
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 23 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

A wonderful winter time drink, this heartwarming keto mulled wine recipe uses whole spices and is cooked in a special way for the best flavor!

Ingredients

Low-carb mulled wine

Extra mulling spices (Optional, as you like)

  • 4 cardamom pods, sliced/crushed
  • 5 juniper berries, sliced/crushed
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 4 slices fresh ginger
  • 2 thin slices/pieces nutmeg
  • Half vanilla pod, sliced vertically

With a shot (Optional)

  • 125 grams (1/2 cup) brandy, spiced or dark rum, vodka, gin or bourbon

Garnish suggestions:

  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Star anise
  • Slices of orange or curled orange peel (or other citrus fruit)
  • Fresh cranberries
  • Fresh cherries, halved and pitted

Instructions

    1. Add mulling spices and sweetener or sugar-free maple syrup to a nonreactive saucepan, plus just enough dry red wine in the pan to cover the sweetener and/or syrup.
    2. Take it to medium heat and mix until the sweeteners are fully dissolved.
    3. Let it come to a rolling boil and keep it boiling for 6-7 minutes. The mixture will reduce a little, and look very shiny and syrupy.
    4. Add all of the remaining wine, and the extra liquor if desired. When it's just starting simmering (steam rising and tiny bubbles at the edges) bring the heat down to very low.
    5. Let it very gently simmer for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot, in prewarmed mugs. Add garnishes as desired.

Notes

The spices and sweetener are suggestions (that's how we make it at home). Please adapt the quantities to your own tastes. If you dislike cloves, for example, no need to add them to the recipe!

You can scale the recipe for more servings: just multiply all ingredients (x2, x3, etc)

For storage and reheating directions, see post.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 mug (6.5 oz)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 122Saturated Fat: 0gNet Carbohydrates: 2.6gSugar: 2.6g

Nutrition information is provided as a guideline only. Different brands of ingredients may have different nutrition facts. If tracking macros, remake the calculations using the nutrition facts from the labels of the ingredients you selected. Net carbs calculated exclude carbs from insoluble fiber and sugar alcohols.

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