Coming up with unique offerings for your guests over the holidays can be a chore, especially when it comes to concoctions to stave off the chill of winter. Of all the options, mulled wine is my favorite. It’s a classic wine-based drink that can be easily made ahead of time and served by the glass when family and friends pop over. Remember that as with any recipe the real fun is in the interpretation so feel free to take my notes and add or subtract items at will. Don’t forget to record the plans for your final concoction because once your guests take a sip they’ll be dying to know how to make it themselves.
Before you get started there are a few mulled wine rules. Any red wine will do but you don’t have to spend that much, after all you’re going to alter the taste considerably.
Try a wine from a region where the nights are fresh. The one thing they typically have in common is a deep full fruit flavor and lots of rustic structure (with acidity) – perfect for mulling.
Try your favorite red or:
- Hungary’s Szekszardi Voros
- Burgundy’s Jacob – Pinot noir
- Italy’s Lungarotti – Cabernet Sauvignon
Never let the wine boil. If it’s boiled it’s spoiled. The flavor of the wine/spice combination will deteriorate if the mixture reaches the boiling point, so keep an eye on the stove. Actually, microwaving mulled wine by the glass or mug full is a better choice. The microwave process
concentrates the flavor elements that can dissipate when mulled wine is made on the stove in an open-mouthed pot, back into the drink. I usually find that one-minute on high heat works best but get there in 20-second incumbents to ensure the mulled wine doesn’t reach the boiling point.
I’ve included sugar in my ingredients list because some find that added sugar soothes the tangy flavor the mulled wine can express after being warmed up. I prefer diluting the mulled wine with herbal or citrus tea. Tea (especially citrus or herbal oriented varieties) not only softens the flavor but it adds subtle elements that the mulled wine doesn’t have on its own. If tea or sugar isn’t to your liking try balancing the flavor by adding a little water to the blend before pouring.
One last thing. Since it’s the holidays a candy cane as a garnish not only adds a nice peppermint flavor to the mulled wine, it looks terrific and really evokes the liquid personality of the season.
Here is a recipe derived from that of my grand aunt Else:
1 750 ml bottle of medium- to full-bodied Red Wine
Nutmeg (to taste)
Cloves (to taste)
1 oz brandy or Cognac (or to taste)
1 cup (250 ml) granulated sugar (optional)
Herbal or citrus influenced tea (optional but excellent)
Water (optional softener instead of tea)
4 large cinnamon sticks
4 candy canes
Instructions (makes four large portions):
- Cut lemons and oranges into slices.
- Pour the red wine into saucepan and gradually heat.
- Add fruit slices, nutmeg, cloves and brandy.
- Keep an eye on the mixture and wait until it becomes hot to the touch.
- At this point you could blend in sugar or water (if desired).
- Pour into glasses/mugs and add tea (to taste).
- Garnish with cinnamon stick and candy cane.
As I said earlier, premixing the ingredients and microwaving it by the glass/mug full is just as easy.
If you’re keen on a holiday oriented drink that isn’t served warm why not try Ginger Wine. It has roots planted firmly in the Victorian Era and has a wonderful ginger essence that is as tasty as it is familiar.
If you have a twist on this recipe or have another wine-based cocktail idea, please comment.