Did you ever wonder if you can make virgin mulled wine? The answer is yes! Like any other traditional mulled wine recipe, this alcohol-free version is made with the best warming spices for a cozy winter drink. Simply replace the wine with grape juice (it's almost too obvious, right?) and a splash of pure cranberry juice. This non-alcoholic mulled wine is suitable for pregnant women, kids and everyone else. If you'd like an alcoholic version, try this traditional hot German wine recipe (Glühwein).
Why you'll love this recipe
- This festive virgin mulled wine is the perfect drink for the Christmas holidays. It's warm, spiced grape juice without alcohol that won't give you headaches, yay! I love this alcohol-free alternative to the popular German and Austrian Glühwein.
- The recipe is easily scalable. One 46 oz bottle of grape juice will be enough for 8 people.
- You can make it on the stovetop within 30 minutes.
- This recipe is entirely vegan and gluten-free. It contains no added sugar.
Key ingredient notes
For the taste of this virgin mulled wine to be as close as possible to classic mulled wine, I'm using grape juice and a splash of pure cranberry juice. The cranberry juice gives the drink that wine-like acidity. Then, make this virgin mulled wine as you would make any other mulled wine: add in some spices (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and pepper) and oranges and let it infuse.
100% pure grape juice is as close as you can get to actual wine. Choose a high-quality grape juice that is made purely of grapes (no sugar or additives).
100% pure cranberry juice gives the drink that wine-like acidity and balances the sweetness of the grape juice. Note that pure cranberry juice is usually a little more expensive than other cranberry juices made from concentrate or cut with water.
Spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and pepper for some warmth.
Oranges, preferably organic, for a subtle citrus touch that makes all the difference.
Secret ingredient: to intensify the cinnamon flavor of your mulled wine, add a bag of cinnamon tea. It's totally optional but I highly recommend it. The exact tea bags I use are the "hot winter spice" tea bags from Harney & Sons. The cinnamon flavor they release is incomparable. You could, however, use any other cinnamon tea.
- Use 100% pure grape juice, not the watered-down and sweetened type. Same for the cranberry juice.
- Dry-roast the spices in a pot without oil is a key step in this recipe (see step-by-step pictures below). This process releases aromatic compounds in the spices and makes the mulled wine much more fragrant and flavorful.
- Add a little orange juice. You might wonder why you should add orange juice to your non-alcoholic mulled wine if you already use grape and cranberry juice. Mulled wine is known for its slight citrusy flavor and by adding orange juice and orange slices you can easily recreate that flavor.
- You don't need to add sugar or any other sweetener. Pure grape juice is naturally pretty sweet and the virgin mulled wine will be sweet enough without adding sugar.
- Make it ahead of time and let it infuse a little longer. Once I remove it from the stove, I like to let it sit on the counter for another hour before straining it.
Step-by-step with pictures
Peel and juice the orange. Peel one orange and juice the other.
Dry-roast the spices. First, place the cardamom pods on a cutting board. Crush them with the flat side of a knife by pressing on the blade (as shown in the picture). Add the crushed cardamom pods and the other spices to a large pot or Dutch oven. Dry-roast them over medium heat for 5 minutes for the aromas to expand.
Add the juices and oranges. Pour in the grape juice, cranberry juice and orange juice. Add the orange slices.
Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. If time allows, let the virgin mulled wine sit for another hour before straining.
Strain and serve (or store). Strain the alcohol-free mulled wine through a fine-mesh sieve and serve right away or store it in an air-tight container/bottle.
Non-alcoholic wine alternatives
- This recipe calls for a mix of grape juice and cranberry juice. You could however also use apple juice instead of grape juice, although the drink might taste more like a hot cider than mulled wine.
- Pomegranate juice is a great substitute for cranberry juice.
- You could also use alcohol-free red wine, which is basically unfermented grape juice.
Mulled wine spices. Cinnamon, cloves and black peppercorns are used in most traditional mulled wine recipes. I also like to add cardamom pods for their piney flavor. You could however add star anise, vanilla or a dash of allspice (which also contains ginger) to the grape juice mixture.
Refrigerating tips. Once you strain the hot mulled "wine", use a funnel to transfer it to a bottle or container. Make sure to let it cool off completely before sealing it (make sure it's air-tight). You can store it in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Freezing tips. Make sure there's a little room in your container to prevent overflow. You can freeze the alcohol-free mulled wine for up to 3 months. The best way to defrost it is to let it sit in the fridge overnight.
Reheating tips. Pour the mulled wine into a pot or saucepan and reheat it over low heat until warm. You can also reheat a cup in the microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute.
Frequently asked questions
You can serve virgin mulled wine at family gatherings. Make alcohol-free mulled wine for everyone or have it for the kids, pregnant women and other people who prefer not to drink alcoholic beverages. You can also take it with you on a hike in a thermos flask and sip on it when cold.
You can serve the virgin mulled wine in mugs or glasses (make sure they are heat-stable). Add a slice of orange and a cinnamon stick if you'd like.
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Virgin Mulled Wine
- 1 tablespoon cardamom pods or ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
- 1 cinnamon stick or ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 5 black peppercorns
- 5 cloves
For the alcohol free mulled wine
- 3 cups (750 ml) pure grape juice* made of 100% grapes
- ½ cup (250 ml) pure cranberry juice* made of 100% cranberries
- 2 oranges
- 1 bag of cinnamon tea* optional
- Place the cardamom pods on a cutting board and crush them with the flat side of a knife (see step-by-step pictures in the post above). Slightly press on the blade with your fingertips until you hear the pods crack.
- Peel and slice one of the oranges. Juice the other orange.
- Add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick (if using powder add it later on), peppercorns and cloves to a larg pot or Dutch oven. Dry-roast the spices over low-medium heat for 5 minutes, while stirring frequently.
- Pour in the grape juice, cranberry juice and orange juice. Add the orange slices and cinnamon tea bag (if using). This is also the perfect time to add cinnamon powder if you didn't use a stick. Cover with a lid and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit on the countertop for another hour if time allows. This will make it even more flavorful.
- Strain the virgin mulled wine through a fine-mesh sieve and serve right away.
- If using a 46 oz bottle of grape juice, double the recipe.
- You can substitute grape juice with alcohol-free red wine or apple juice. If using apple juice, the drink will taste more like a hot cider than warm mulled wine.
- You can use pomegranate juice instead of cranberry juice. Make sure it's made of 100% pure fruits and has no added sugar or other ingredients. The acidity of the juice really balances out the sweetness of the grape juice and makes it taste more like wine.
- Adding a bag of cinnamon tea to the mulled wine really intensifies the cinnamon flavor. Our favorite tea is "Hot Cinnamon Spice" by Harney & Sons.
- Storage tips: you can store the virgin mulled wine in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
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