Mulled Wine Cranberry Sauce combines the best flavors of Vin Chaud with fresh cranberries. It’s a rich, sweet-tangy sauce that’s perfect for the adults at your holiday table.
Is there anything cozier on a chilly night than a cup of something mulled? Warm mulled cider is a “given” in our house in October and November. When I was younger, I used to drink a mug of it alongside a cinnamon sugar-coated apple cider doughnut, often trying to use the cinnamon stick garnish as a straw. As an adult, I’ve also developed an appreciation for mulled red wine, or “Vin Chaud.”
Mulled wine is as simple as it sounds: red wine, simmered with mulling spices and honey or sugar until aromatic. Some recipes (my favorite recipes), add brandy after mulling, for a warm sip that begs to be served during the holiday season.
So, what does this have to do with Cranberry Sauce? As I see it, Cranberry Sauce and Mulled Wine are a match made in heaven. Simmer fresh cranberries with red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon is my favorite), a touch of cider, orange zest, brown sugar, and fragrant spices for a rich, sweet-tart sauce that’s perfect for a holiday celebration.
I have really come to love making fresh cranberry sauces over the years. There are so many different ways you can customize the traditional recipe, like this Apple-Orange recipe I shared with you a few years ago. Not to mention that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to prepare.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce can be as simple as a bag of fresh cranberries, simmered for 10 minutes in a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water. Start fiddling with that basic starting point, and a world of customized gourmet cranberry sauce recipes becomes available to you.
This cranberry sauce is a decidedly adult recipe. The wine brings a bit of tanginess to the dish, as it simmers down with the sugar and spices into a thick, syrupy sauce. Given the add-ins, you don’t need to go overboard on the wine price point here. Whenever I’m cooking, I always like to use a bottle I wouldn’t mind drinking, but pulling out the really good stuff would be a waste. Vin Chaud itself is known for using more economical bottles.
I like to use Cabernet Sauvignon in this recipe, but if you prefer a lighter flavor, Pinot Noir would be a good option. I’ve made the recipe with both, and they are equally delicious for their own merits.
In following with my favorite mulled wine recipes, I finish the sauce with a splash of brandy (most often, cognac). The sauce is delicious without it, but I find that the brandy really complements the flavors and gives it that Vin Chaud feel.
Bear in mind that while the alcohol in the wine will cook out while simmering, the brandy added at the end will not, if this is a consideration for your guests.
In the great tradition of make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes, this Mulled Wine Cranberry Sauce can be made up to five days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. I think the flavors of this sauce are best enjoyed at room temperature, so I let it sit out for about an hour before serving.
It also freezes well for up to two months. Mulled Wine Cranberry Sauce “on demand” throughout the winter? I can’t say “no” to that!
More Recipes for Thanksgiving:
Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes
Apple-Orange Cranberry Sauce
Cornbread, Sausage, and Chestnut Stuffing
Apple-Herb Turkey Brine
Delicata Squash Salad with Brown Butter Vinaigrette
Caramelized Shallot and Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
Buttermilk Sweet Potato Casserole
Our Favorite Apple Pie
Miniature Apple-Rasbperry Pies
Mulled Wine Cranberry Sauce
In this sweet-tart twist on a classic, fresh cranberries are simmered with red wine and classic mulling spices. An optional, but recommended, splash of brandy makes this adult cranberry sauce an elegant addition to any holiday table.
Makes about 2 cups cranberry sauce.
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- 3/4 cup dry red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon)
- 1/4 cup apple cider
- 1 cup light brown sugar *
- grated zest of one orange
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- pinch ground cloves
- pinch ground cardamom
- 1 tablespoon brandy (optional, but recommended)
In a large pot, stir together all ingredients except for the brandy. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer until most of the cranberries have "burst" and are soft. Remove from heat and stir in brandy, if using. Cool to room temperature and serve. Sauce will thicken upon standing.
Sauce can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator, or up to 2 months in the freezer.
Return to room temperature before serving.
*If you prefer your cranberry sauce on the more tart side, reduce sugar to 3/4 cup.