There’s nothing more seasonal than vin chaud, a festive winter drink. This delicious hot spicy wine is served at Christmas markets and bars all over France during the winter.
Vin Chaud for Christmas
The smells of cinnamon, orange, cloves and star anise mixed with pungent red wine are redolent of the festive season and hard to resist. The first time I catch a whiff of the spicy winter drink each year instantly puts me in a christmassy mood. It wouldn’t be Christmas for me without vin chaud.
Vin Chaud a festive winter drink across the world
Vin chaud, a festive winter drink, exists in varying forms in many parts of the world, with local modifications depending on regional produce. It’s perhaps most well-known as the German/Austrian version glühwein, or British mulled wine. In Scandinavia it’s called glögg or gløgg and in Italy vin brulé.
Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, Serbia, the Baltic States, Romania, Croatia and Hungary all make their own versions of hot winter wines with similar spices as do Brazil, Chile and Canada. In Quebec maple syrup is added to hot red wine to make a drink called Caribou. Mmmm, that sounds good!
Vin Chaud at Christmas markets
Vin chaud is served at all Christmas markets “marchés de noël” in France. Cradling a mug of the aromatic beverage is the best way to keep your hands warm while browsing the market stalls. Most markets these days expect you to pay a deposit on a reusable mug/cup. You buy it with your first order and can get it refilled at different stalls throughout the market. When you’ve finished either you return it to get your deposit back or keep it as a souvenir.
Vin Chaud the après-ski drink
Vin chaud, a festive winter drink, is however not only a Christmas drink, it’s also served in ski resorts as an indispensable part of the après-ski experience. There’s nothing so warming after a cold session on the slopes than a fragrant glass or mug of hot wine.
Vin Chaud party
Every year we have a Christmas party at home that has become known simply as our “Vin Chaud”.We started the tradition back in 1994 when we lived in Hanoi, Vietnam, and it has taken place in six different locations in France since then as we’ve moved house from central Paris, to the suburbs and south to the Côte d’Azur.
We make vat loads for all our friends and the quantities of the ingredients are fairly random but it always works out well (and ends up like the photo above!) The house is infused with a gorgeous christmassy smell. It’s very simple to make, especially in smaller quantities.
Recipe for Vin Chaud a festive winter drink
To make your own vin chaud, use the above ingredients. Place the sugar, water or OJ and all the spices in a pan on a high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then reduce the heat to low and add the red wine and brandy, stir to combine, and bring back to a simmer (don’t let it boil). Slice the lemon and orange and add to the mix.
Keep at a very low heat for the whole time you are serving it – your house will be infused with delicious spicy aromas. Sometimes I stud the orange with cloves making a pomander in which case I don’t slice the orange. This version requires many more cloves than in the recipe above. I usually do this when making large quantities, not just a small amount. The choice of water or OJ is a personal preference and some people might like either more or less sugar. Start with a little and add to taste.
Vin Chaud maison
Walking around towns in France at Christmastime you might see cafés with signs advertising “vin chaud maison”. This means they sell homemade mulled wine, it does not translate as “house of vin chaud”! It’s sure to be good.
Order a glass and you may find it’s possible to sit out on the terrace with a fleecy blanket to keep you toasty, while sipping your spicy vin chaud and watching the world go by.
Or if the café has a fireplace, snuggle up warm in front of it to enjoy your vin chaud festive winter drink.
Do you like vin chaud? Is it something you drink at Christmas too? I’d love to hear from you.
Please PIN for later!
This post was originally published in December 2014 and has been edited and revised for 2023