It’s December which means we’re right in the middle of holiday season. Hanukkah is only 11 days away and Christmas is 20. That means if you haven’t already started it’s time to buy and wrap presents, trim the tree and get ready for your holiday parties. And holiday parties mean cookies, cakes and of course cocktails. While eggnog is always a perfect choice for this time of year, another popular choice is mulled wine. But unlike the eggnog which is served cold, the wine is served piping hot, ideal for those evening parties or just snuggling up by a roaring fire with the person you love.
I remember the first time I had mulled wine. I was going on a ski trip with some friends from college. We were carpooling and we picked up one of the guys from home. He not only had his ski stuff, he also had a jug of something. We all asked what it was and he promised us it was a treat for after skiing. It was mulled wine and it was amazing. I wanted the recipe but he said it was a family secret. So I just sipped my wine and savored every single taste, knowing that I would do my best to replicate it. Of course I could never replicate his family’s recipe, but I discovered I didn’t need to.
Much like sangria, there are hundreds of different ways to make mulled wine, but all of them start with a dry red. After that you could use brandy or congac, lemons or oranges, and a variety of spices. Then if you want it sweeter, you could add sugar or even honey.
Although the beverage actually dates all the way back to Roman antiquity, it wasn’t until the 14th century that the mix of wine, fruit and spices gained its name from an Old English word meaning “muddled.” But it’s actually Charles Dickens who gets credit for elevating mulled wine to the holiday drink that we know and love today. While mulled wine appeared in several of the novelist’s books, it was its appearance in A Christmas Carol, that guaranteed the cocktail’s place at holiday parties around the globe.
- 1 bottle dry red wine, like a syrah or merlot
- 1 cup cognac
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 orange, sliced
- 1 lemon, sliced
- Combine all the ingredients in a large sauce pan and simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Strain out the fruits and spices into a large pitcher, then pour into tall mugs, garnish with a cinnamon stick and serve.