Brrrrr, it’s a bit nips out there isn’t it? So get toasty in front of the fire with the next in my series of recipe swaps for Christmas: low-carb mulled wine. A super-easy recipe that’s just as gorgeous as the higher sugar version, but better for you.
I love mulled wine. Or glühwein if you want to give it its delicious alternative title, which immediately makes me daydream of sitting in a thick sweater in a cosy wooden chalet bar, looking out at the snow in a German Christmas market. You just can’t beat this beautiful, hot, winter-spiced, alcoholic drink for a bit of warming decadence over the holiday season.
I didn’t want to miss out on it this season just because I’ve been cutting out sugar, so I decided to set about making my own low-carb version.
Wine is not zero-carb like spirits/liquor. But it is low-carb, and so generally can be included in moderation as part of a low-carb lifestyle. So to reduce the carb count for mulled wine, it’s the additions to the wine that need to be as low-carb as possible. That means swapping out the sugar for a low-carb alternative, and not adding a load of fruit juice as some recipes do. In my version I’ve infused the wine with a cut orange during the mulling process (which just involves gentle heating of the wine with spices), to impart some orange flavour in exchange for minimal carbs. The orange is then discarded before drinking.
Even if you’re not following a strict low-carb regime – just trying to reduce sugar where you can – then every little helps. This recipe is a great way to enjoy a lower-sugar version of a traditional Christmas indulgence.
When selecting a wine to use, it’s a no-brainier that you won’t want to waste a very good bottle on being heated and having spices added to it. But neither would I advise using a very cheap one. I used a bottom-end-of-mid-price Italian red blend from the Puglia region.
Mixing some dark spirit into the mulled wine just before serving is optional. I like to, as I find it gives a more rounded-out, punchier flavour, and replaces some of the alcohol that may have evaporated from the wine during heating. When I last made this recipe I used armagnac, as the remains of a bottle someone had given me last Christmas were lurking in the cupboard and it was a good way of using it up. But use whatever you prefer – dark rum, brandy etc – or whatever you have to hand.
Nutrition Count: Low-Carb Mulled Wine vs. Regular Mulled Wine
Each glass of low-carb mulled wine is just 4g of net carbs, so a whole 10g lower than the same recipe made with sugar. If you made a version that also included some added fruit juice, the carbs might well be even higher. And you save nearly 40 calories per glass too.
|Per glass (1/6 of total recipe)||Regular Mulled Wine*||Low-Carb Mulled Wine*|
* Approximate figures calculated using verified product information on the MyFitnessPal database. Since you’re not eating the orange, but I figured that some of the juice will have been cooked into the wine, I thought counting half an orange was reasonable for nutrition purposes.
Health Impact of the Ingredients
This mulled wine is free of wheat, gluten, added sugar and artificial sweeteners. Obviously it contains alcohol.
I’ve published here a full blog post about zero-carb, zero-calorie, natural sugar-substitute erythritol. I think it’s great and I use it a lot in my low-carb cooking. My post covers what it is, its health benefits, how to cook with it, and where to buy it.
As the orange in this recipe is used only to impart a little flavour, and it is also heated, I’m taking it that much, if not all, of any heat-unstable vitamin C that infuses into the wine from the orange will be destroyed.
Regarding the alcohol in this recipe – the red wine and dark spirit – there’s a significant body of scientific thought that, in moderation (aaah, the ‘m’ word again!), alcohol of any type has some beneficial health impacts, both physically and mentally. If you want to know more, then you can read a good summary of the latest debate about that in this scientifically-referenced article by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Its take-home message is that alcohol is both a tonic and a poison. But I guess you already knew that, right?
One word of caution if you’re on a very focussed weight-loss mission. Your body will use alcohol as a readily available source of fuel before anything else you consume at the same time, and before it burns fat. So it’s counter-productive to have too much – and thereby switch off fat-burning for the day – if the reason that you’re following a low-carb regime is to try to achieve ultra quick weight-loss. If that’s your goal, then you may be best just avoiding alcohol altogether until you’ve reached the weight you want.
Consuming alcohol won’t stop fat-burning, but it will pause and delay it until the energy from the alcohol is used up. So if you don’t mind weight-loss slowing or stalling over Christmas – which I certainly don’t – then it’s not an issue. But it’s just something to bear in mind if you’ve got a weight-loss deadline e.g. for a special event.
Recipe for Low-Carb Mulled Wine
Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 10 mins
- 1 bottle of red wine
- 60g/2oz/1/3 cup erythritol natural brown sugar substitute (e.g. Sukrin if you’re in the UK; Swerve if you’re in the US)
- 1 orange, peel left on, cut into 8 wedges
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 6 cloves
- 1tsp grated nutmeg (or to taste)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 60ml/2 fl oz/¼ cup dark spirit i.e. rum, brandy/cognac, or armagnac (optional, and use an amount to suit your taste)
- Put the wine in a saucepan and add all the other ingredients EXCEPT the dark spirit, if using. (If you have time you can do this and then leave it to sit for a few hours before heating through, so that some of the flavours are imparted into the wine ahead of time. But you will still get a good flavour without doing this).
- Stir over a gentle heat until the erythritol sugar substitute has dissolved.
- Once the wine is nearly boiling, remove from the heat and tweak the taste to your liking by sampling a spoonful to see if you think it needs more spice or erythritol sweetness.
- Once the flavour’s as you like it, if you are adding dark spirit, then do that now.
- Strain into heatproof glasses or mugs and serve immediately. You can, if necessary, reheat the mulled wine in a saucepan, or by the mugful in a microwave, but you will lose more of the alcohol.