Last time, we began exploring the timely history of mulled wine, as it is truly one of the most perfect holiday beverages. Why should the coffee shops have all the fun creating tempting spiced lattes? It’s even more fun to create mulled wine on your own stovetop. Heat it up to just hot, but not boiling if you want to preserve the alcohol content. But I’m getting ahead of myself! First, more mulled wine history. Then, a tempting recipe with a twist at the end!
England Played a Major Role in Mulled Wine History
Although many spiced beverages were enjoyed for centuries throughout Europe and the British Isles, Victorian England elevated mulled wine’s popularity, and its preparation became an art form. For starters, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1869) primly suggested that all utensils, including the pot used for mulling wine, should be reserved for that purpose only, and no other. A major step forward!
Mulled wine’s Victorian popularity was due in part to an obsession with Far East spices and in part to Charles Dickens’s references to it in many of his works, especially in A Christmas Carol.
Spicing Isn’t Limited to Wine
The art of spicing up beverages is not limited to red wine. There are recipes and historical traces of spruced up beer, ale, fermented honey in water, and white wines from all over the world and from the earliest times. Wassail, mead, honey wine, even grape and cherry juices either are, or have formed a base for mulled beverages.
Recipes for mulled wine are innumerable. The Scandinavian version, Gløgg, adds Akvavit (an herb-derived hard liquor); Hungarians and other eastern European countries add pepper; warmer climate countries add chili; and some simply add brandy or vodka to any recipe to make it more, ah… stimulating.
Basic ingredients for mulled wine are cinnamon, cloves, fresh grated nutmeg, apples, pears or cherries, and lots of sugar or honey. From there, you can let your tastes and imagination run wild.
The only recipe rules I would encourage are to use a good, but not top quality wine — definitely do not use a poor quality wine, as this gives mulled wine a bad reputation; and to use a robust red wine like a Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon so that the wine can stand up to the spices.
Foodforfriends.com has a wonderful Spicy Mulled Wine recipe that I’m going to try shortly.
SPICY MULLED WINE
- 3 lemongrass sticks finely chopped
- 3 oranges cut into 8ths
- 1 vanilla pod split
- 4 star anise
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 50g root ginger chopped
- 12 cloves
- Pinch of fennel seeds
- 3 bottles (750ml each) of light red wine such as a Merlot
- 300g brown sugar
- ½ deseeded red chilli (optional)
Add all the above ingredients except the sugar and chilli into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. As it begins to boil add the chilli, if desired. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside for 30 minutes. Add the sugar, a little at a time, according to taste. Then strain through a sieve and serve immediately.