This recipe, my friends, comes with a warning.
CONSUME WITH CAUTION.
There is something oh-so very drinkable – and almost weirdly addicting – about this Crock Pot mulled wine. I don’t know if it’s the tart/sweet combo, the cinnamon, the cloves, the wine, the brandy, its ability to warm you from the inside out, the magic of the season, all of it together, or what, but it is very easy to drink.
Possibly too easy to drink.
Contrary to how I may have represented myself here, I really am not that much of a drinker. I like cocktails and wine (okay, and beer too) but most often, I stop at one – or half of one. Usually because, depending on the alcohol content, it’s put me half to sleep. Because I’m usually kind of lame. (Occasionally – like, once every couple of years – I will power through and keep drinking and then … well, hoo boy. And oy.)
But this drink, for some reason, compels me to keep sipping. And sipping. Others who have tried it have experienced the same thing. So: please, heed the warning.
A slow cooker might be a host/hostess’s very best friend in the kitchen, especially during the holidays – and especially when you’re serving a warm, seasonal drink like mulled wine. A Crock Pot filled with an irresistible warm-spiced drink, a collection of mugs, a ladle – they take up a little big of room on the counter, and that’s it. So easy when entertaining.
A fruity wine like Merlot or even a Zinfandel or jammy Cabernet Sauvignon will work best in this Crock Pot mulled wine recipe. But nothing too sweet, please, which could easily take the cocktail from clink-worthy to cloying. If you’re not sure, just sure start off with less sugar, tasting and adding more until you’ve hit the right balance of (strangely addictive) tart/sweet.
- 1 750 ml bottle of Merlot or other fruity (but not too sweet!) red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel
- 2 cups orange juice (I either like squeezing my own or buying a 100% pure fresh-squeezed brand like Odwalla)
- 1 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries, rinsed and picked through
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar plus more to taste
- 1 medium orange (I always use an organic orange for recipes like this because it will be soaking in the beverage, peel and all)
- 2 tablespoons whole cloves
- 2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
- ½ cup brandy
- Garnishes, if desired: cinnamon sticks, orange slices, and/or fresh cranberries threaded onto a cocktail pick
- Add wine, orange juice, cranberries, and sugar to a 3-quart or larger Crock Pot. Stir to help sugar begin to dissolve.
- Wash orange thoroughly and stud the orange with the cloves – just stick the cloves directly into the peel, pointy end first. I like to poke it all over with a toothpick first to make holes for the cloves.
- Add the clove-studded orange and the cinnamon sticks to the wine.
- Cook on low for 2 – 3 hours, or until the berries are tender. You can cook it for an hour or two longer if you wish, but take care that it doesn’t boil.
- Remove the orange and the cinnamon sticks, then VERY CAREFULLY pour the mulled wine through a fine-mesh sieve into a large heat-proof bowl. Using the back of the spoon, press on the cranberries to get all of the juices into the bowl. A berry or two may burst, so watch out!
- Return wine to the Crock Pot and stir in the brandy. Taste and add additional sugar until it’s just sweet enough. I like it just past the pucker point; you may prefer a sweeter mulled wine.
- Ladle into mugs and serve with a cinnamon stick, an orange slice, and/or fresh cranberries pushed onto a cocktail stick, if desired.
- Keep your Crock Pot on the “warm” setting to keep the wine nice and hot. If your Crock Pot doesn’t have a warm setting, try alternating between “low” and off.