A couple weekends ago, Hubby texted me from his movie shoot. “I’m freezing. It’s been sleeting/snowing/raining/snowing/hailing/snowing and I’ve been outside all day…I’ll be home in an hour, give me something HOT and ALCOHOLIC to drink.”
I had a couple open bottles of red wine in the fridge. Without bothering to look up a recipe, I tossed them into a pan, threw in a cinnamon stick, a few cloves, and a cup of water (because I remembered that, somewhere in the back of my brain). After it heated (NOT boiled), I tasted it – bitter. So I added some brown sugar – about 3 tablespoons’ worth, I believe.
It did the trick. He came home only half frozen – a hot bath and a mug of mulled wine unfroze him the rest of the way.
I got to thinking, though. Who “invented” mulled wine? Why? What’s supposed to go in it, and what type of wine should you use? All the sites I found on the internet seemed to crib off each other. To distill it for you, basically mulled wine has been around as long as wine has been around. It warmed people up in winter (and some people said it was to make bad wine taste better – a winter version of Sangria, I suppose) as well as gave them something “healthy” to drink (because water – well, it wasn’t very clean “way back when”). It can be found in almost every European country, and is often called “boiled” or “burned” wine. Of course, you don’t want to boil or burn the wine! (Boiling burns off all the alcohol.)
First off, start with a hearty red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel will work nicely. If you’re making enough for a crowd, use two bottles – pour into a non-reactive pan (or hey, use that crock pot you got for your wedding and has that thick layer of dust on it – make sure to clean it first). If just for two to four people, use one bottle. DON’T use the cheapest wine you can find (although if you must, go ahead…); but likewise, don’t waste an expensive bottle. Anything that you like the taste of non-heated should be fine.
Next, add the spices. This will totally depend on your tastebuds. I like two cinnamon sticks – hubby likes only one. I generally put six to a dozen whole cloves, and if I had allspice, I’d toss that in, too. You can add ginger – either 1/2 teaspoon grated, or a small slice; or you could put in 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger (but fresh is much better). I’ve seen recipes that include cardamom pods, star anise, even bay leaves. Experiment!
Your next addition should be another liquid. Amounts kind of depend. You can add up to a cup of plain water, a cup of fresh squeezed orange juice, or a cup of apple cider; many recipes call for adding 4 ounces of brandy (some say cherry brandy). I started with water; next time, I think I’ll add brandy AND some OJ.
Then comes the sweetener. The amount depends on how much wine you start with. So you can add anything from 1/2 cup of white or brown sugar to 1 and 1/4 cup of honey; start on the stingy side, and taste as you go. Add more if you need to. My guess is if you’re using Agave syrup or Stevia for your sweetener, you can use them here, too; just be VERY stingy with your amounts until it’s where you want it.
Lastly comes the fruit. Whether or not you’ve already used orange or apple juice, you might want to add strips of orange zest or lemon zest; thin slices of orange and lemon; either in the pot, or in the bottom of the mug.
Let everything sit on low; either on the back of your stove, or in your crockpot. As the day goes on, the spices and the fruit really open up into the wine, and turn it into something magical. Plus, it leaves your house smelling really festive.
Recipe Heaven! Here are a couple of recipes, for those of you who don’t want to guess at amounts.
2 bottles Cabernet Sauvignon, 1 1/4 cups honey, 4 cinnamon sticks, 1/2 cup sugar, 8 pieces cloves, 1 qt. strained fresh orange juice.
Cook to nearly boiling, then add 8 ounces brandy. Cut ingredients in half to serve six.
From Just Hungry:
1 bottle inexpensive yet tasty dry red wine, 2/3 cup of raw cane sugar or white sugar, or non-artificial sweetener of your choice, juice and peel of one small lemon, 2 cardamom pods, 4 cloves, 2 bay leaves, 2 cinnamon sticks.
Put everything in a heavy-bottomed pan. Sitr to melt the sugar. Heat the mixture over low heat, and leave for about an hour; it should never boil, just sort of seethe. Serve in small mugs (straining out the peel and spices), with optional shot of brandy, kirsch or other liquor.
Of course, if you Google mulled wine, you’ll get a ton of recipes – but you have the basics with what I’ve given you here. Play around, and do share if you come up with a new, tasty mulled wine treat!
From my house to yours, I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving. Come on back the day after Turkey Day, as I’m participating in a Black Friday Blog Hop!
~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~