Winter Wonder-Wine

There’s a chill in the air, the holidays are upon us, and it seems your feet will never be warm again… What to do?  Break out your cool winter coats (oh, the glorious smell of leather the first time of the season!), hats, scarves and gloves, and of course, drink something warm.  ‘Tis the season for holiday cheer – and by that I mean those wonderful, fragrant, body & soul warming holiday drinks.

Hot alcoholic drinks go back centuries, from simple Hot Buttered Rums and Toddies to my personal favorite, Mulled Wine.

Mulled WineWhat is “mulled”, you ask, and why do I want to do that to my wine?  Well… “mulling” is the act of adding spices to your wine.  Mulled Wine is most commonly made with a sweet to medium dry red wine (a good red-blend table wine will do nicely), brought to a low simmer and infused with spices.  This traditional European and British drink is made with a combination of clove, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg but as with all things delicious, the spices can vary depending on personal taste.  Star anise, peppercorn, cardamom, raisins, apple and orange rind are also fine additions (as well as a little sugar if your wine tastes a little bitter when heated).  If you like an additional kick, fortify your mulled wine with a little brandy.

Mulled Wine

1 bottle red wine (750ml)
8 whole cloves
3 small cinnamon sticks (½” in length)
Pinch of coarsely ground nutmeg
8 whole peppercorns
12 raisins
4 strips of orange rind (aprox. 3” by ½”)
1½ cups water
¾ cup sugar
½ cup brandy, kirsch or calvados (optional)

In a spice bag or piece of cheese cloth tied with kitchen string (about 6 inch square), place cloves, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, peppercorn and raisins. Pour wine, water and brandy into a 4 quart saucepan, add orange rind and spice bag and bring to a low simmer for about 5 minutes.  Try the wine at this point and add sugar to taste.  (I’ve never needed more than ¾ cup but let your personal taste be your guide.)  Once the mixture is to your liking, ladle it into your favorite mug, garnish as desired, and enjoy.  The wine can be kept warm on a low heat or reheated in the microwave.  (For a larger batch, increase the ingredients by 50% for each additional bottle of wine.)  And remember, you can tailor the spices to your own taste, so have fun and experiment! 

If you prefer cider to wine, follow the same recipe but try adding rum or whisky (I like bourbon) instead of the brandy.  

Keep warm, Cheers! And Happy Holidays!

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