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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I'm serving hot mulled wine at work and wondered, relating to a similar question, how much alcohol is left in the wine after being heated all day? Is it considerably less alcoholic after 10 hours of cooking?
—Gareth D., Newport, England
Mulled wine is such a festive and fragrant treat, with a rich history.
Certainly heating wine is going to cause it to evaporate, and part of what will begin to evaporate is the alcohol. How much alcohol will be left will depend on a few variables: How much you start with, how long it is cooked and at what temperature, and what kind of vessel it was cooked in (an open shallow pan will evaporate faster than a smaller container with a lid). Of course, this also relates to cooking with wine. In fact, the USDA has issued a chart with guidelines to how much alcohol will be left in various food preparations.
When it comes to mulled wine, the common thinking is to barely heat the wine, and to heat it slowly. If you get it up to a simmer, the flavors will start to deteriorate. Ideally, mulled wine should be warm, but still easy to drink, so you can appreciate all of its lovely aromatics.
Some mulled wine recipes recommend adding a splash of another type of alcohol like brandy, which would boost the alcohol percentage. But no matter what you start with, and no matter all the other variables, if you’re really keeping mulled wine warm for 10 hours, it’s very likely some—but definitely not all—of the alcohol will evaporate. But the flavors of the mulled wine will also start to fade and get muddier after hours and hours of heat exposure.
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