Mulled Wine vs Gluhwein: Savoring the Differences

Last Updated on November 27, 2023 by Lydia Martin

You’ll agree that there’s a certain magic in the air when the chill of winter sets in. In my cozy kitchen, the fruity aromas of spiced wine often fill the air, bringing warmth and cheer.

But speaking of spiced drinks, two wines often come to mind: mulled wine and Gluhwein.

While both have their unique charm, how do they differ? Is one superior to the other, or just the same? To ease the confusion, let me compare mulled wine vs Gluhwein and find out which reigns supreme!

Gluhwein & Mulled Wine Compared

Glass of Gluhwein

At first glance, traditional mulled wine and Gluhwein seem pretty similar, both offering a warm, spiced wine experience ideal for cold evenings. But what’s the difference between mulled wine and Glühwein?

Mulled wine, a broad term for spiced wine, is popular in many recipes or variations across different cultures. Glühwein, on the other hand, is a German variation with a distinctive recipe.

While both use red wine as their base, the main difference between mulled wine and Glühwein is their mulling spices, sweetness, and additional flavors.

German Gluhwein often includes a specific mix of ingredients and may feature more robust orange flavors and aromas.

“Gluhwein blends warmth, wine, and winter’s embrace.” – Liquor Laboratory 

Mulled wine, however, varies greatly depending on the region and personal preferences, sometimes incorporating a more comprehensive range of flavorings, like orange slices, anise, bay leaves, and other spices. But how long does mulled wine last?

Gluhwein vs Mulled Wine Comparison Table

Aspect Mulled Wine Glühwein
Origin Global, with variations Germany
Base Wine Usually red wine, sometimes whiskey and other spirits Primarily red wine, sometimes white wine
Spices Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and more Cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and cardamom
Citrus Optional, often orange Often includes orange or lemon
Sweeteners Sugar, honey, or none Sugar, sometimes maple syrup
Additional Ingredients Varies widely, usually nutmeg and cinnamon sticks Occasionally, brandy or rum
Cultural Use Winter holiday, Christmas season Christmas market, festive season
Serving Warm, not boiling Traditionally warm
Star Rating ★★★★☆ ★★★★★

Are Mulled Wine & Gluhwein The Same Thing?

Glühwein and mulled wines can be the same thing since they’re from the same category – hot, spiced wine.

Despite this aspect, there’s a clear difference between mulled wine and Glühwein, including their components and flavors.

German Gluhwein [1], a traditional drink in Germany, is a specific type of mulled wine. This wine has a more delicate taste with a defined set of ingredients and cooking methods.

In contrast, mulled is a broader term encompassing many recipes and traditions worldwide, each with its unique taste and twist on how they’re served and spiced.


Key Differences


Mulled wines have a history that spans many cultures and centuries, with each region adding its unique touch.

Mulled wine, known in Britain as the seasoned wine variant, is akin to Germany’s Glühwein. Originally termed “muddled” in Old English, the British version is now popularly referred to as mulled wine.

Glühwein wine, meanwhile, has deep roots in German-speaking countries, closely tied to their Christmas traditions.

Its name, meaning “glowing wine,” likely comes from the old method of using hot irons for mulling.

Originating possibly from ancient Egypt for medicinal use, the practice of spicing vinos was popularized by the Romans, who spread it across Europe.

This led to various regional versions, like Spanish Sangria and Nordic Glogg, with Germany’s Glühwein becoming a yuletide tradition.


Person Making German Mulled Wine

There’s a difference in the preparation of these drinks. The preparation of mulled drinks varies widely, allowing for personalization.

Here’s the mulled recipe:

  • Dry red wine
  • Cinnamons
  • Allspice (whole)
  • Whole cloves
  • Orange rind
  • Sugar

Begin by combining all the ingredients except the sweetener and gently heat them. After heating, incorporate the sweetener and let the mixture cook or simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.

In contrast, Gluhwein follows a more time-honored recipe, often adhering to specific spice blends and techniques.

Gluhwein is created when you heat wine with fruits and seasonings, imparting a unique flavor and taste.

For a homemade Gluhwein wine, here’s how you can go about it:

  • Red wine
  • Water
  • Vanilla bean
  • Anise
  • Cinnamons
  • Cloves
  • Nutmeg
  • Organic oranges
  • Sugar

Slice clean and dried oranges into thick rounds and insert cloves into them. In a saucepan, mix the wine with water and boil it gently.

As the mixture warms, add the oranges (or orange juice), the vanilla bean seeds, and all other seasonings. Allow these to heat slowly, infusing the flavor for 20 minutes on low fire.

Afterward, remove the spices and fruit. You may choose to strain the wine into the glass for a smoother texture. It is usually served hot.

Sweetness Level

Sweetness in mulled wines can range from dry to quite sweet, depending on the recipe. But the classic mulled was significantly less sweet compared to the modern version.

Conversely, German Gluhwein wine tends to have a consistent level of sweetness, usually on the higher side to balance the spices.

But despite the minor difference, I can say that Glühwein wine and today’s mulled are adaptations of the spiced, hot beverage flavors our ancestors savored.

But what does mulled wine really taste like?


Vanilla is more commonly found in mulled variations, adding a depth of flavor. Most Gluhwein wine recipes omit vanilla, focusing on the clarity of herbs.

Addition Of Alcoholic Shots

Gluhwein and mulled wines sometimes include a shot of brandy or rum for extra warmth and depth.

But a mulled one allows the use of various spirits, like vodka, bourbon whiskey, cognac, and orange liqueur, depending on your preference, for the alcohol content.

Recipe Variations

Glass of Mulled Wine with Star Anise and Slice of Lemon

Mulled boasts a wide array of recipes or variations, reflecting local tastes and traditions. Some drinkers add nutmeg or infuse it with bay leaf and ginger for an extra taste.

If you like the classic twist, consider swapping sugar for molasses and tossing in a few almonds and raisins.

Gluhwein wine, in contrast, sticks closer to its classic recipe [2] with fewer variations. Mind you, some people serve Gluhwein using white vino, though it’s not that popular compared to the red counterpart.


Spiced wine, especially a mulled beverage, is widely available in various forms globally.

“One of our favorite things to do in the Alps was to go up the ski lift, hang out with friends and drink Glühwein,” Anand Saha, Owner of Mozart’s Cafe

In comparison, Glühwein is more regionally specific, often associated with German Christmas markets and festive occasions.


Mulled wines [3] enjoy popularity in many countries, each with its own version, while Gluhwein holds a special place in Germanic cultures, especially during the holiday season.

Gluhwein’s popularity peaks during the holiday season, whereas mulled ones are enjoyed in many regions year-round.

Overall, mulled drinks have broader appeal due to their diverse regional interpretations, while Glühwein is a festive, cultural hallmark.


Do the spirits cook out of mulled wine?

Yes, spirits can be cooked out of mulled wines during cooking, but not all of it. The longer a hot, spiced wine simmers, the more spirit reduces, but a significant amount typically remains.

How do you make Gluhwein less bitter?

To make Gluhwein wine less bitter, avoid overboiling by setting the stove to low heat. Also, consider adding a bit more sweetener (like sugar), and avoid tannic reds as the base if you want the beverage to be sweet.

Final Thoughts

Both mulled wines and Glühwein provide a delightful way to enjoy the winter season. With its vast array of recipes, Mulled wine caters to a broader palate and allows for creativity.

But I prefer Gluhwein wine more as it’s steeped in tradition, providing a consistent and heartwarming experience, especially around the holidays.

Ultimately, the choice between these easy recipes comes down to personal preference or the occasion.

Gluhwein shines for a traditional, festive experience, while mulled wine is perfect for those who enjoy experimenting with flavors. So, go get your glass now and savor the wine [4] you like best!



Lydia Martin

Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here or feel free to give Lydia a tip.

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