In these cold winter months, what we're all really looking for is something to
keep us warm. This week's column will help you achieve inner warmth - by imbibing
a sumptuous hot drink, of course. There are many excellent winter drinks to warm
you up: hot chocolate, lattes in all their Starbucks manifestations, teas and
infusions, or even what your grandmother would recommend - hot milk with honey.
But great as all these are, there is one drink that gets you feeling warm and
fuzzy in more ways than one, and also satisfies that need to be festive. This,
of course, is mulled wine.
The concept of mulled wine is very simple: take wine, heat and season it
with various Northern European winter spices, and sip it in front of a fire
until you fall asleep. The origin of mulled wine is shrouded in mystery, as
is the origin of the word "mull" in this context, meaning "heated and spiced."
Most sources trace the practice of mulling wine back to medieval Europe, where
wine was a staple. Mulled wine may have been made out of bad batches of wine;
this kills two birds with one stone, since it makes the wine palatable and
helps warm people up. In any case, the people had a need to get drunk, and
in winter, hot alcohol is better than cold alcohol.
Mulled wine is called Gløg in Sweden, Glögi in Finland, and Glühwein in Germany.
Elsewhere in Europe, it either isn't cold, or they drink vodka. Recipes abound
for this traditional staple, but the key elements are consistent: cinnamon,
cloves, and citrus. Apart from these, there are many variations. Clearly, you
don't need expensive wine for mulling, since you're going to "ruin" it anyway.
Buy something red, drinkable, and not too sweet, for under $10. Here is my
current favorite recipe for mulled wine.
- 1 bottle of red wine
- 8 whole cloves
- 2 oranges or 1 orange and ¼ cup orange juice.
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ½ tsp. grated nutmeg
- ½ tsp. grated ginger
Preheat oven to 350 ºF. Stud one orange with the cloves (pushing them in as
if they were tacks). Bake it 15-20 minutes, till soft. Juice the other orange.
Place the sugar and water in a saucepan, and heat on medium. Stir to dissolve,
and place the cinnamon sticks in the sugar-water. Simmer, and stir frequently,
until thickened into a syrup, about 5 min. When the baked orange is ready, begin
heating the wine in a saucepan on low. Place the baked orange with cloves, the
syrup (including the cinnamon sticks), ginger, and nutmeg in the wine. Stir
occasionally while heating for at least 30 min to allow spices to infuse. Do
not allow the wine to boil. Remove the orange and the cinnamon sticks, and add
the orange juice, mixing well. Strain if desired, serve, and enjoy by the fire.
(Makes 6 glasses).
Variations: Use honey instead of the syrup. Vary the spices, including
things like cardamom, lemon zest, or allspice. Add a couple of shots of
cognac or brandy at the end for more bite.