Not that we ever need a reason (or a season!) to sample delicious new wines, but the holidays are particularly a treat when it comes to trying different traditional vinos from around the world. While wine is typically best served room temperature red or perfectly chilled white, hot wine is also a “thing.” Yes, HOT WINE! If you have never tried mulled wine, do yourself a favor and put that on your list of holiday season must-do’s.
What is Mulled Wine?
Mulled wine is a spice-infused red wine served warm and best enjoyed in the colder months. It goes by different names in various regions; such as Glogg in Sweden, Glühwein in Germany or Vin Chaud in France. Ingredients for this comforting beverage depend on the region, but typically consist of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, anise, vanilla and allspice. Bitter orange, figs, apples, raisins or ginger can be added as well for additional sweetness. Other liquors are often added to the mix; with vodka, rum, brandy, sherry and cognac popular choices for an extra kick. The ingredients for mulled wine are simmered, allowing flavors to infuse, and then strained and served immediately. The wine can also be refrigerated for 24 hours to allow for further infusion then reheated before serving.
History of Mulled Wine
The origin of mulled wine came about in pre-refrigeration days, where the purpose was to use wine on the verge of spoilage and not let it go to waste. The addition of other liquor, spices, fruit and sugar made it more pleasant to drink.
The history of mulled wine dates all the way back to the Ancient Greeks. Said to be invented by Greek scientist and Father of Medicine, Hippocrates; the wine (red or white) was spiced and sweetened with honey and not always served hot. The drink gained its name from the Old English word meaning “muddled” and has been popular throughout Europe for centuries.
The oldest recipe dates back to 1834 and was found in a recipe collection in the State Archives in Dresden, Germany. The collection belonged to Count of Wackerbarth, Augustus Christopher. However, wine was first recorded as spiced and heated in Rome during the 2nd century. The Romans traveled all across Europe, bringing wine and their recipes with them to the Rhine and Danube rivers, and to the Scottish border.
While it can be served throughout the winter months, mulled wine is more traditionally a Christmas beverage. Charles Dickens is credited with making mulled wine synonymous with the holidays, thanks in part to his mention of the beverage (a mulled wine punch known as the Smoking Bishop) in his timeless classic, A Christmas Carol.
“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”
– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843)
Recipes for Mulled Wine
There are quite a few recipes for mulled wine floating about. We will list a few of the traditional favorites here, should you wish to whip up a batch of this delicious winter treat:
- 2 bottles of strong red wine
- 1 bottle of port wine
- 5 sweet oranges, unpeeled
- 1 large grapefruit, unpeeled
- ½ cup of sugar
- 30 cloves
Directions: Wash the fruit and bake it on a foil lined baking sheet until it becomes light brown, turning once. Heat a large earthenware bowl and add the fruit. Stud each fruit with five cloves. Add the sugar and the red wine, and store covered in a warm place for about a day.
Squeeze the fruit to extract the juice, and strain into a saucepan. Add the port and warm thoroughly, but don’t boil.
Serve in heated glasses.
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Clarence’s Mulled Wine:
- 1 bottle red wine
- 1 glass of brandy
- 1 lemon, peeled
- 1 lime, peeled
- 1 orange, sliced
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Sugar, to taste
Directions: In a saucepan, gently heat the wine and spirit. Using a speed peeler, remove large parts of rind of the lemon and the lime. Be careful not to remove the pith. Toss peels into the saucepan.
Add the cinnamon, cloves, orange slices and sugar.
Simmer for 15 minutes then ladle into glasses and enjoy.
A Modern British Recipe:
- 2 bottles of fruity, unoaked wine
- 150ml ginger wine
- 2 un-waxed oranges
- 1 lemon, peel only
- 150g caster sugar
- 5 cloves, plus extra for garnish
- 5 cardamom pods, bruised
- 1 cinnamon stick
- A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Directions: Peel and juice 1 orange, and add to a large saucepan along with the lemon peel, sugar and spices. Add enough wine to just cover the sugar, and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 – 8 minutes until it turns into a thick syrup.
If you are serving the mulled wine immediately, stud the second orange with 6 vertical lines of cloves, and then cut into segments to use as a garnish.
Turn the heat down, and pour the rest of the wine into the saucepan, along with the ginger wine. Gently heat through and serve with the orange segments as a garnish.
Alternatively, there are several good options available for purchase in your local store if you don’t feel up to the task of mulling your own. A notable, tasty and affordable option is Mrs. Beachley’s Mulled Wine, at a cost of about $10.
Enjoy Après-ski after a day out on the slopes, warm up while strolling Christmas markets on a chilly night, or heck…indulge to make those holiday family gatherings a bit more bearable. Mulled wine is sure to comfort and warm you from the inside-out during this festive season!
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