Mulled Wine Syllabubs

A Virginia entertaining guru reimagines an old English classic sipper that tastes like “Christmas in a glass”

A glass of red wine with foam on top and spices on the foam; it is on a blurred background of a wood round bar cart and a red rug. There is pine greenery and an orange by the glass

Photo: Patricia Lyons

Cheers to you if you’ve ever said the words, “Fancy a syllabub?” But more likely than not the English concoction is new to you. For Garden & Gun’s December 2023/January 2024 holiday cover story, the Virginia floral artist and entertaining specialist Mary Spotswood Underwood opened up Brooke’s Bank, her family’s Georgian estate, to readers, along with her trove of inspired seasonal decor and menu ideas. That included the recipe for her syllabub, which by the time Brooke’s Bank was built in 1751 had evolved from a rustic drink into a spoonable dessert; Underwood, in turn, has reimagined it into a holiday-party sipper. 

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Underwood advises doubling or tripling the recipe below when entertaining. “I chill what mulled wine I need for syllabubs,” she explains, “and then keep the remaining mulled wine in a saucepan ready to bring back to a simmer as needed as a beverage option. Leftover mulled wine and syllabubs keep well and are handy for drop-by holiday visitors, too.” 

As for the syllabubs, pre-party, “I put them in the fridge and go get dressed,” she says. “They take an hour or so to set up and are ready when the guests arrive. They taste like Christmas in a glass.”

photo: Patricia Lyons


  • Mulled Wine Syllabub (Yield: 6 servings)

    • 1 (750ml) bottle full-bodied red wine

    • 12 whole cloves

    • 12 cardamom pods, split

    • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces

    • 2 star anises

    • Peel of ½ orange, pith removed

    • ½ cup sugar

    • 4 oz. brandy

    • 4 oz. heavy whipping cream, chilled

    • Ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, citrus peel, rosemary springs, all for garnish (optional)


  1. Combine the wine, whole spices, and peel in a saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer over low heat. Simmer for one minute. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and let mulled wine cool completely in place. Strain.

  2. Combine 1 cup of the chilled mulled wine with the brandy and cream in a 24 oz. (or larger) cocktail shaker. Add a handful of ice cubes and secure the top tightly. Shake vigorously for 20 to 30 seconds. Pour evenly into 6 (6-ounce) glasses, preferably tapered cordial or wine glasses. Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour, or until the cream completely separates and rises to the top of the glass. Syllabubs may be made up to 24 hours in advance. Garnish with ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, additional citrus peel, and/or rosemary sprigs.