The Old Bear’s Hot Spiced Wine

“The Old Bear was particular about his hot spiced wine.  So much cinnamon and so much nutmeg and so much honey, not a drop more.  Raisins and nuts and dried berries, but no lemon, that was the rankest sort of southron heresy…” -A Clash of Kings

The Old Bear's Hot Spiced Wine


The medieval recipe produces a hearty mulled wine, rich in spices.  It is heavy and strong, without the sweetness of modern mulled wine, and might not be quite as universally palatable. That said, if you are making wine to serve out of doors on a cold winter night, this is the more warming of the two recipes.

The modern recipe produces a delicious hot wine that, while spicy and rich, is medium bodied and easy to drink. The sweetness of the honey and cane sugar combines brilliantly with spice of the fresh ginger; the result is an arresting tingle that floods the palate, without compromising the other flavors.

Bottom line?  Modern if you are throwing a party, medieval if you are planning to walk The Wall at night.

(Guest review written by Firepony)

Medieval Mulled Wine Recipe

Cook’s notes: Don’t be afraid to meddle with the proportions to suit your taste.  The amounts of honey, and ginger are negotiable.  If you find that you’ve added too much ginger, you can add a fruit juice (“rankest of southron heresy” that it is), to balance out the flavor. The best method for adding fresh ginger is to crush it in a garlic press to release the juices. Sugar can also be added, to make the wine more drinkable for those who are not enduring freezing temperatures. Adding sugar and fruit juice make the wine more similar to the modern recipe, but are great for salvaging a batch of wine that is just a little too authentic.


5. Potus ypocras. Take a half lb. of canel tried; of gyngyuer tried, a half lb.; of greynes, iii unce; of longe peper, iii unce; of clowis, ii unce; of notemugges, ii unce & a half; of carewey, ii unce; of spikenard, a half unce; of galyngale, ii unce; of sugir, ii lb. Si deficiat sugir, take a potel of honey. Curye on Inglish: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth-Century

Our Changes: This is a medieval recipe for hippocras, which is also mentioned in the books.  Since both are a hot spiced wine, we decided to bundle them into one post.  To match the Old Bear’s hot spiced wine description, we dropped the white pepper, and added raisins, cranberries, and almonds.  This made it more like the Scandinavian hot wine concoction “Glogg”.


  • 1 bottle of an inexpensive red wine- sweet works better than dry. (Cabernet is good.)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 Tbs. each of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, nutmeg
  • Handful each of dried cherries, raisins, and almonds (slivered or sliced is best)

Bring the wine and honey to a simmer. Taste for sweetness and add honey as necessary. Remove from heat, stir in spices, and continue to stir occasionally.  After sitting, the spices will create a thick residue which will settle to the bottom. Using a ladle, serve into individual mugs or other heat-safe vessels. Consider putting the cloves in a mesh tea ball, or cheese cloth, to avoid picking cloves out of your goblet.

Fun Fact:  Ypocras was a very popular Medieval beverage, and many different directions for preparation still exist. Also called Hipocras, the drink is named after the famous physician Hippocrates.

Southron Mulled Wine

Our modern recipe is only really modern in the sense that it is still made today.  The recipe comes from the chaplain’s wife at a top British University, and while the specifics are a closely guarded secret, the basic ingredients are roughly the same as the medieval recipe above.  However, this recipe has no nuts and berries, and calls for one part orange juice per two parts wine.  The juice helps cut the acidity of the wine, and lends the mulled wine a sweetness not solely derived from honey. The citrus juice, coincidentally, makes the wine in keeping with the “southron” recipes alluded to by the Old Bear. This is much less trouble to make than it appears to be:

  • 2 bottles of red wine (Shiraz and Cabernet work well)
  • 750ml pulp-free orange juice (1/2 as much orange juice as wine)
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon and 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 Tbs. nutmeg
  • ~3 1″ cubes of fresh ginger. Crush these into the wine using a garlic press.
  • ~3 tablespoons of honey
  • 3-6 heaping tablespoons of cane sugar (or white sugar)
  • 2 clementines, halved. (or 1 small orange)
  • 1/4 of a fresh lemon, squeezed over the pot. (Optional, but don’t substitute lemon juice from a bottle.)
  • 12-20 cloves. These should be inserted stem first into the rind of the clementine so that only the buds protrude. (You may need to pierce to flesh of the clementines with a small knife in order to insert the cloves.) Float the clementines in the wine, rind down, so that the cloves are in the wine.
  • 1/2 shot of brandy, cognac, or armagnac (optional, but adds a pleasant kick)

Add all of the ingredients and bring the mixture to a simmer, but DO NOT BOIL. Stir it with a whisk often. Once it simmers for 5 minutes or so, reduce the heat such that the wine is kept just below a simmer.  Heat for 45 minutes and serve with a ladle.

NOTE: The clementines make delicious boozy treats for the lucky guests still around when the wine runs out.

43 thoughts on “The Old Bear’s Hot Spiced Wine”

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  11. lodermulch says:

    “we dropped the white pepper” – well, that was probably a wise decision, because white pepper tends to ruin most beverages (apart from some indian ayurvedic-self-inflicted-punishment-yogi-tea-esque concoctions, which are already intrinsically undrinkable)

    what you should have kept, though, is this:

    …which, despite belonging to the botanical family of peppers, is an entirely different spice. decidedly peppery, but at the same time fruity&fresh – give it a try in your next batch of mulled wine ;)

    1. Carrie says:

      Oh interesting! I didn’t know what that was.

  12. The_Stargazer says:

    Ok ladies… So I live in Grand Forks North Dakota, where we had snow May 1st. While most of my friends were disheartened at the snow, I delighted in the chance to experiment with mulled wine.

    After trying both recipes, the Medieval is by far my favorite, but by the Others I cannot get the spices to congeal and settle to the bottom without letting the mixture cool to the point it is barely luke warm, hardly enough to warm people up coming in from the cold.


    I had to resort to letting it cool, moving it to a separate pot, and re-heating it there, but the double heating changed the taste a bit. Still was delicious, thanks for all you do.

    1. The_Stargazer says:

      (and how many people can say they served Mulled Wine in May without anyone looking at them strangely? ;-) )

    2. Wren says:

      Use whole spices (cardoman pods, cinnamon sticks, cracked but whole nutmeg) in a reusable tea bag or herb/spice satchel. That way you can cook your wine and just remove the whole bag afterwards.

      1. mouse says:

        Ah – that explains my experience using all ground spices. They did settle ….sort of. They formed a very odd sort of gelatinous mass at the bottom of the pitcher I had it in. It was actually kind of interesting – sort of a highly spiced medieval Jell-o – but it tied up a lot of the wine, which was what I really wanted! Ah well – cold weather is at hand again, so I shall try with whole spices. Thanks!

    3. Snoozegirl says:

      Immediately strain through cheesecloth. Do not let it simmer too long or all the alcohol will evaporate.

      1. Brian says:

        How long is too long? My wife and I have been drinking hot spiced wine for years. Now she is pregnant and can’t have the alcohol, so I would like to heat up the wine “too” long for her and make a nonalcoholic batch. How long is long enough to be sure it’s all gone?

        1. Snow says:

          You cannot remove all of the alcohol, and it takes a couple of hours to remove most of it.

        2. Joe says:

          You can’t remove all the alcohol; use de-alcoholised wine for her. Or a tart berry juice like aronia or blueberry.

  13. stilladyj says:

    I sort of crossed the recipes, using the old recipe and adding the juice of 2 oranges, plus a pear I had lying around and half an orange’s worth of sections, whole (for your “boozy treat”) and it was delightful. Made it in my crock-pot, as well.
    In response to The_Stargazer, I found that the spices settled in the cup, not in the pot. So all but the last few sips were clear of sandiness.

  14. ericinva says:

    Made the Southron Mulled Wine variant today for a Christmas gathering of friends and it was a HUGE hit. Dumped all the ingredients into a crock pot and it was ready to drink after about 90 minutes. Skipped the 1/2 shot of booze and I don’t think the recipe was any the less for it.

    I’m looking forward to making this again!

  15. Feline says:

    When I was reading the Song of Ice and Fire series, I stumbled over people drinking spiced wine here and spiced wine there. In Germany we have a similar beverage called “Glühwein”, which is much appreciated during cold winter nights. Nonetheless, I thought that medieval wine must have been somewhat different from this modern, commercial, ready-to-use, bottled Glühwein. So I decided to search a recipe and cook a “classic” medieval spiced wine myself. I googled “spiced wine” and found, as third hit, this wedside including “The Old Bears hot spiced wine”. What a great coincidence, I thought. So I bought the ingredients and started cooking. And this is my estimation:
    This recipe (I took the medieval version) was amazing. I wasn’t sure whether to use ground ingredients or whole spices. As it happened, I only had ground cinnamon, so I took a tbs of it. I used one tbs of whole cardamon and ground it in a mortar. I couldn’t get dried cherries, so I used dried cranberries instead, which worked perfectly fine for me. Although it might have some similarities with the german Glühwein, it was much more aromatic and eclectic. The honey gave it a superb sweetness and flavor. Maybe I will try the southron version. Thank you for sharing this great blog with its wonderful recipes. I will definitely try some of those other delicacies, too.

  16. Joshua says:

    Hello, apparently there’s green and black cardamom? Does it make a difference which one we use?

    1. Needs Mead says:

      We have only ever used green cardamom, but mostly by default, as we’ve never seen the black cardamom for sale around here. I’d wager that either works just as well as the other.

      1. Bored Again says:

        What you probably want is actually White Cardamom. It is usually just labelled Cardamom, but if you find it in whole pods, it is white. This is the most common type used in American cuisine with European roots.

        Green Cardamom is used primarily for Indian foods. It is basically the same plant, but possibly a different variety, or just processed differently. Black Cardamom is actually a different plant, but it looks and tastes similar, except for being black. It is also used in Indian dishes, but always left whole.

        1. Snoozegirl says:

          It is easiest to buy the ground decorticated cardamom which is naturally a dark speckled grey in color.

        2. sdnalloh says:

          White cardamom is just green cardamom that has sat around for awhile. The flavor is less potent.

          Try it yourself: buy some green cardamom and wait ~2 years. It’ll turn white. I know; my jar of green cardamom pods is now half a jar of white cardamom pods.

  17. Melissa G says:

    I just made the Medieval Mulled Wine recipe to go with some steak that I had marinated in the same red wine and with the same spices (minus Cardamon because I couldn’t find it). I decided to use Lucky Duck Cabernet Sauvignon because it was super cheap at Wal Mart and it already had a very rich fruity flavors so I also left out the dried fruit (leave it to a college student to save as much money as possible :P). It was amazing!!! It tasted almost like a hot spiced apple cider. I definitely recommend trying it during cool/cold weather!

  18. Quentin McHugh says:

    Could I substitute the red wine with sparkling grape juice to make it non alchoholic?

    1. Needs Mead says:

      I’m not sure it would translate that well. If you’re set on the grapiness of it, I’d also throw in some other fruit juice, such as sour cherry, skip the sugar, and alter the spices to taste. Think of it as more of an alcohol-free sangria, in that case.

      An easier, and probably better solution would be mulled cider. Heat several gallons of cider in a large pot, and add clove-studded oranges (12 cloves, and clementines are best), 3″ crushed ginger, 2 tsp. powdered ginger, 4 cinnamon sticks. Don’t let the cider boil, and it’s best if you keep it just under a simmer, so it doesn’t bubble at all. Try to get the best cider you can find, with nothing funky added, such as preservatives.

      Let us know how it turns out, whichever route you take!

      1. Quentin McHugh says:

        I’ll be sure to do that. I know a great place to find good cider. Thanks much!

  19. Alexandre Robert says:

    Hi ! I really love what you’re doing, since I’ve read A Song of Ice and Fire I always wanted well…to eat. A lot. I’ve cooked my way to your website and now I think I’m ready to throw a medieval banquet, though I was wondering where you found all your “tableware” -if this term’s appropriate.

  20. Nil Zed says:

    best way to crush fresh ginger: peel it and grate it on a fancy microplane grater. You can even peel the whole thing and keep it in a ziploc bag in the freezer and then take it out and grate it while frozen, then put the rest back right away. Never again discover your lump of ginger has dried out and/or gone moldy before you finished it!

    1. Snoozegirl says:

      Great idea. Thanks.

  21. Christina says:

    Urgh. I used all ground spices and they never made it to the bottom. The almonds slices floated on top and it was a murky mess with chunks. I’ll try again some other time, but this was a no-go for me and my guest.

  22. redundentuser1 says:

    Personally, I don’t think it is hippocras unless you strain it. Get some cheesecloth people.

    I very much second the ‘Long Pepper’ — highly recommended.
    You can often find it in an Indian store, labeled as pippali.

  23. Elias says:

    I made this using the recipe found in the A Feast of Ice And Fire cookbook. However, I had managed to find the sourest, nastiest wine 10 dollars can buy, so I added some extra honey since the sugar in the Poudre Douce didn’t cut it. It was amazing on a damp and chilly winter’s day, warmed me to the very core. It reminded me of the Swedish beverage glögg, which is essentially mulled wine with more sugar and a less dreadful wine.

  24. GLM says:

    Penzeys sells all three types of cardamom

  25. monkeyberry says:

    If you make the original, it really work well to strain it. That is what I did when I made Glogg as Christmas gifts one year. The raisins are plump and delicious and when my husband called from work to check on the progress I was totally raisin drunk. Good times!

  26. Dungeonmaster Jim says:

    I’ve used Manischewitz for mulled wine. The nice thing is you do not need to sweeten it with anything. It really works nicely.

  27. Coldhands says:

    Why is the Old Bear’s recipe listed here different than the one in the published cookbook? I received the book as a Christmas gift and just purchased everything for the recipe from the cookbook (since Winter Has Come), and then came here to read comments, only to discover that the recipes are different (mine, from the book, has no cardamom or clove, uses cranberries instead of cherries, and uses sugar instead of honey). Why the discrepancies?

    1. Chelsea M-C says:

      Some of the recipes got tweaked a bit during the cookbook editing and testing phase. The changes aren’t large ones, and the recipes can easily be altered to suit whatever you’ve got in your pantry. The individual spices were swapped out in favor of the spice mix on page 6, and as for dried fruits, either cranberries or cherries work equally well. I’ve also used raisins, in a pinch, and currants. Hope this helps!

      1. Coldhands says:

        Thanks for the fast reply! I’m glad the book contains the reworked version, since that’s what I’ll be making tonight to combat the Polar Vortex.

        I’m loving the book. Thank you!

  28. Øyvind says:

    Being Norwegian, I’ve had my share of “gløgg” mulled wine throughout the years, and it’s still my favourite warm drink :) .

  29. Carrie says:

    Thanks for the recipe, I made this the other night and it was lovely! Nice tip, commenters, on the long pepper, I’ve never heard of that but now am intrigued. I frequent the Indian market regularly so I’m going to look for it next time I’m there.

  30. Helen says:

    I have found that whole spices are a lot more convenient, and don’t create the film or the congealed mess at the bottom. Just strain in a few layers of cheesecloth when you’re done mulling. Making it in a crock pot on low heat is also a really good way to fix it, because it takes so little time to prepare, and it makes your house smell fantastic while it’s cooking.

  31. Ben Finán Phillips says:

    Wonderful post. I used it as a resource for my own hot spiced wine experiments. Looking forward to more recipes.

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