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The Substitute for Brandy in Mulled Wine: A Comprehensive Guide For Beginners

Substitute for Brandy in Mulled Wine

Last Updated on March 22, 2024 by Lydia Martin

As someone who loves experimenting with flavors, I’ve often explored alternatives to traditional ingredients in classic recipes.

Recently, I found myself pondering what could be a good substitute for brandy in mulled wine. This warm, spiced drink is a staple in my kitchen, and tweaking it with different liquors gives it a fun twist.

Here, I’ll share my top picks for brandy substitutes, each bringing a unique twist to your mulled wine.

What is The Best Substitute For Brandy in Mulled Wine

1. Tawny Port

Pouring Wine on a Glass: Best Substitutes for Brandy in Mulled Wine

Star Rating: ★★★★★

Ratio: 1:1

Why I Like It: I like Tawny Port for its rich, aged characteristics, adding a depth of flavor to a mulled wine recipe.

The hints of dried fruits, nuts, maple syrup, and brown sugar in this red wine blend seamlessly with the spices, creating a complex yet luxurious, well-rounded drink.

“Experimenting beyond brandy in mulled wine uncovers hidden notes of comfort.” – Liquor Laboratory

My tip – avoid boiling the mixture; just a gentle simmer is sufficient to extract ample flavor from the spices without evaporating all the booze.

This recipe doesn’t need much preparation time; you can prepare about an hour or two in advance. 

For reheating, use a large saucepan over medium-low heat on the stovetop or keep the wine in a slow cooker on a low setting. Place a spoon and serving glasses nearby for convenience.

2. Cognac

Henessy XO and a Glass

Star Rating: ★★★★★

Ratio: 1:1

Why We Like It: Cognac, brandy’s close relative, naturally fits well in mulled wine. If you want to make mulled wine rich with a woody taste and hints of sugar, nuts, and dried fruits, Cognac is the perfect sub.

Upon using it, I like how it complements the complexity of wine and the mulling spices. Additionally, the smoothness and depth of Cognac elevate mulled wines to a more luxurious experience.

3. Rum

Man Pouring Appleton Estate Rum on a Glass

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Ratio: 1:1

Why I Like It: Rum, with whole spices and sweet notes, makes an excellent apple brandy substitute. It adds a robust, molasses-like flavor to mulled wine recipes, enriching the overall profile.

I would suggest choosing a dark or spiced rum since it has all the spices and is one of the closest alternatives to brandy.

The result? You get to enjoy a cozy and inviting recipe for chilly evenings, especially this holiday season.

4. Cointreau

Bottle of Cointreau and a Glass of Drink

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Ratio: 1:2 (Brandy: Cointreau)

Why I Like It: Cointreau, a type of Triple Sec, adds a delightful citrusy zing, complementing the mulling spices. You can add orange juice or whole orange to the mix for an extra layer of zestiness.

This orange liqueur exudes a subtle orange note that pairs beautifully with the different spices in mulled wines, creating a refreshing and lighter version of the traditional recipe.

Tip: Serve with orange slices (or orange peel) and cinnamon sticks.

5. Bourbon

Bottles of Nulu Bourbon Whiskey

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Ratio: 1:1

Why We Like It: Bourbon brings a unique, smoky sweetness to spiced wine recipes. Its vanilla and caramel notes add a comforting richness to the red wine, making it more indulgent.

The tasting profile of bourbon matches well with whole spices in spiced wine, like star anise, whole cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom pods.

With its alcohol content, Bourbon-infused spiced wine is perfect for sipping by the fire on a cold night.

6. Grand Marnier

Pouring Grand Marnier on a Glass

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Ratio: 1:2 (Brandy: Grand Marnier)

Why I Like It: Grand Marnier, a blend of Cognac and bitter orange, introduces a sophisticated, bittersweet note to mulled wine.

It complements the spices beautifully while adding a complex, refined character to the drink.

Using this substitute, I find it complementing red wine, apple cider (or white wine), fresh cranberries, and brown sugar, especially if you replace apple brandy.

7. Triple Sec

Bols Triple Sec

Star Rating: ★★★☆☆

Ratio: 1:2 (Brandy: Triple Sec)

Why I Like It: Similar to Cointreau but slightly less refined, Triple Sec exudes a lovely citrus twist to mulled wine, especially when added with orange juice.

Its sweetness and orange notes make the drink more approachable and enjoyable for those who favor fruity notes.

Mixed with mulling spices like orange peel, whole star anise, and sugar, it’s a delightful substitute, especially when garnished with a cinnamon stick.

8. Vodka

Bottles of Vodka

Star Rating: ★★★☆☆

Ratio: 1:1.5 (Brandy: Vodka)

Why I Like It: Vodka is a versatile choice, providing a clean, crisp alcoholic kick without overpowering the flavors of the wine, regardless of whether you use red wine or white wine.

“I never thought I’d be into mulled wine.” – Jason Zuliani, Co-owner of Dedalus Wines in Burlington, Vermont

For those who prefer warm booze in their mulled wines [1] without altering the drink’s original taste profile too much, try Vodka.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Brandy Substitute

Choosing a brandy substitute involves considering several factors to ensure that the alternative complements your recipe or preference. Here are key factors to keep in mind:

Flavor Profile

Different brandies have unique flavor profiles influenced by the fruit used, distillation methods, and aging processes. When selecting a substitute, consider the flavor notes you want to maintain or enhance in your dish or drink. For instance, if brandy imparts a fruity sweetness, a rum or dark whiskey might be suitable alternatives. Always aim for a substitute that harmonizes with the intended taste.

Alcohol Content

Brandy typically has a moderate to high alcohol content, and this plays a crucial role in certain recipes. When substituting, be mindful of the alcohol strength to avoid compromising the intended balance. If a recipe calls for a specific alcohol content, choose a substitute with a similar level to achieve the desired outcome.


The availability of specific brandies can vary based on location and regional preferences. Consider what alternatives are readily accessible in your area. Common substitutes include whiskey, rum, cognac, or other fruit-based spirits. This ensures that you can easily find a suitable replacement without compromising the overall quality of your dish or drink.


Brandy substitutes vary in price, and your budget may influence your choice. While some brandies can be premium and expensive, alternative spirits might offer similar flavor profiles at a more affordable cost. Balancing quality with budget considerations is essential, especially if you’re using the substitute for cooking or mixing in cocktails.

Ultimately, the ideal brandy substitute depends on the specific requirements of your recipe and your personal preferences. By carefully considering the flavor, alcohol content, availability, and price, you can confidently choose a substitute that complements your culinary or mixology endeavors without compromising the essence of your creation.

FAQs Related to Substitute for Brandy in Mulled Wine

Can I substitute brandy in mulled wine with another type of alcohol?

Yes, there are several alternatives to brandy that can be used in mulled wine. Common substitutes include rum, whiskey, bourbon, or even vodka, depending on personal taste preferences and availability.

How do I choose the best substitute for brandy in mulled wine?

Consider the flavor profile you want to achieve and select a substitute alcohol that complements the other ingredients in the mulled wine. For example, rum adds a rich sweetness, while whiskey or bourbon can contribute a deeper, oakier flavor.

Can I omit the alcohol altogether in mulled wine?

Yes, you can omit the alcohol entirely from mulled wine if desired. Simply increase the amount of fruit juice or cider in the recipe to replace the volume of alcohol.

Will substituting brandy affect the overall flavor of the mulled wine?

Substituting brandy with another alcohol may alter the flavor profile of the mulled wine slightly, but it can also add unique nuances and complexity. Experiment with different substitutes to find the combination that best suits your taste preferences.

Are there non-alcoholic alternatives to brandy for mulled wine?

Yes, you can use non-alcoholic brandy extracts or flavored syrups to replicate the taste of brandy in mulled wine. These alternatives provide the flavor without the alcohol content.

Can I use fruit juice as a substitute for brandy in mulled wine?

While fruit juice can add sweetness and flavor to mulled wine, it may not provide the same depth and complexity as brandy or other spirits. However, you can experiment with adding small amounts of fruit juice, such as apple or orange, to enhance the fruity notes in the mulled wine.

In Summary

Exploring substitutes for brandy in mulled wine (or gluhwein in German) [2] opens up a world of flavors and possibilities.

Whether you prefer the rich warmth of rum or Cognac, the citrusy notes of Cointreau and Grand Marnier, the subtle kick of Vodka, or the aged characteristics of Tawny Port, there’s a perfect alternative for every palate.

So, if you want to serve mulled wine, experiment with these substitutes and find your new favorite. Your taste buds will thank you afterward!


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