Mulled wine might be the cool weather equivalent of the sangria. Mulled wine traces its early origins to the early days of Egypt, then to Greece where the drink was named Hypocrace after the great Greek doctor, Hippocrates. It has many names and as many variations as Sangria. While popular through all of Europe (Glogg, Gluhwein) Mulled Wine does seem be a quintessentially British winter beverage and enjoys a level of sophistication over other warm beverages.
I had my first mulled wine when I was 13. Yes, 13! I had gone to visit my grandparents in their beautiful new Oxfordshire home for Christmas one year. I didn't particularly want to be there. I had never been away from home for the holidays, and here I was in some foreign land. More than anything I think I was upset that my grandparents had left the South of France which had served as my summertime home for my whole life until that point. I missed everything about it. I had never spent Christmas in France. I wondered why. Because their new home was being renovated my parents and I stayed at a neighbor's, Lady Something or Other, who was out of town on holiday. Her small thatch-roofed home was dark, creaky and dreadfully cold. I remember never quite getting warm that trip - clearly my British blood had thinned as generations passed. My grandmother, though still living in their Kensington flat, decided to have a Christmas party in their Oxfordshire home and chose to have it the night the carolers were singing in town. She was a wonderful hostess and always had the grandest of parties.
When I was a young child I looked forward to the day I could join all the grownups at one of the after hours (past my bedtime) events. At 13 that time had come and although the party was in England and not in France, I was still happy to be included among the adults. Among the beverages, the champagne, wine, gin & tonics and vodka there was mulled wine. I had never had any before. Growing up in a household with European traditions, alcohol was never forbidden. I had small sips of wine with dinner, always Champagne at New Years, and the odd Rum and Coke when I was off with my friends - times have changed since then.
Among the guests was a cousin of the boys (there were 7 of them!) who lived in the renovated barn that was part of the old manor house property. A beautiful fair-skinned, blue eyed boy with dark blonde hair. He wore a tweed jacket and a tie. At 16 he was much older than I was (and I was an awkward 13 year old) and remember feeling, just then, very young in my tartan drop-waisted dress from Miss Selfridge. But this boy, whose name was Blaze, seemed to enjoy my company and while we were chatting in the corner near the fireplace he asked me if I might like some mulled wine. I said sure.
He returned with two glass mugs that smelled divine and felt incredible in my cold hands. I took a sip and the sweet, citrusy, warm and somewhat spicy beverage immediately warmed me to the core. It was delicious. And I'm sure it was especially good because the boy in tweed gave it to me. I've had a fondness for it ever since and now, over 30 years later I'm reminded of that cold English Christmas and the 16 year old boy.
Mulled wine is traditionally enjoyed during the time of year between Halloween and New Year's. It is indeed very festive. While recipes vary - some call for brandy, others for orange juice - they all call for orange zest, mulling spices and a bit of sugar. I have a couple of recipes below.
Mulled Wine, from Williams-Sonoma
- 12 whole cloves
- 2 nutmegs, cracked into pieces with a hammer
- 2 bottles (each 750ml) dry red wine
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Stripped zest from 2 oranges and 2 lemons, plus more zest for garnish
- 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 cinnamon sticks
Tie the cloves and nutmeg pieces in a small square of cheesecloth, or put them in a large metal tea ball.
In a large nonaluminum pot, combine the wine, sugar, orange and lemon zests, orange and lemon juices, and cinnamon sticks. Add the clove-and-nutmeg bundle. Heat over medium-low heat until steam begins to rise from the pot and the mixture is hot, about 10 minutes; do not let it boil. Remove the clove-and-nutmeg bundle. Keep the wine warm over very low heat until ready to serve.
Ladle the wine into cups or heatproof glasses, garnish with the citrus zest and serve warm. Serves 8 to 10.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Christmas Entertaining, by Georgeanne Brennan (Simon & Schuster, 2005).
Mulled Wine, Recipe from Martha Stewart
- 1 large orange
- 2 cardamom pods
- 6 whole clove
- 6 allspice berries
- 6 whole black peppercorns
- 1 cinnamon stick, plus 4 for garnish (optional)
- 1 bottle (3 cups) fruity red wine
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup brandy
With a fine grater, zest, then juice the orange.
With the flat side of a knife, press firmly on the cardamom pods to bruise them. In a large pot (not aluminum), combine zest, juice, cardamom, cloves, allspice, peppercorns, cinnamon, wine, sugar, and brandy. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes.
Reduce heat to low; simmer until flavors have melded, about 30 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve; garnish with cinnamon stick, if desired. Serve immediately.
Mulled Wine, Recipe from Ina Garten
- 4 cups apple cider
- 1 (750-ml) bottle red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 orange, zested and juiced
- 4 whole cloves
- 3 star anise
- 4 oranges, peeled, for garnish
Combine the cider, wine, honey, cinnamon sticks, zest, juice, cloves and star anise in a large saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Pour into mugs, add an orange peel to each and serve.
2007, Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved
I love this Mulled Wine kit - such a lovely hostess gift idea during the holidays. For instructions visit HGTV here.