‘Tis the season…to have cold hands.
I’m convinced mulled wine was invented as a handwarmer in the depths of winter. It first pops up in the history books around 400 CE, although its European medieval name of Hipocris harks back to Hippocrates, the Ancient Greek “father of medicine” – and it’s not hard to imagine Celtic Mead being dangled over the fire for an extra-warming kick. Nowadays, mulled wine is a popular winter drink across much of northern Europe. For example, in Sweden it goes by the splendid name of glögg.
The second-best thing about mulled wine (after drinking it) is that it’s a cinch to make. All you need is a nice full red organic wine, a few spices, a liberal amount of sugar or raw honey, and some heat. It’s as imprecise as that because there is no right or wrong way to mull (spice) your wine. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, hold back on the sugar. If you think Aztec hot chocolate is nowhere near fiery enough, double up on the spices. It’s your special recipe.
A few ingredients to consider:
Cinnamon, Cloves and Ginger (be careful: used liberally, these make for a fierce drink).
Vanilla and Nutmeg.
Citrus peel (orange peel is a personal favourite, but for a sharper, fresher wine, try lemon – or even lime, if you’re very brave).
Sugar or honey.
A set ratio of wine to water – purely personal choice. (I measure 2 parts wine to 1 part water, but then, the British winter can be bitter).
It’s no good putting everything in a pan a few minutes before you serve up. Mulled wine needs to be simmered so the ingredients impart enough flavor to the mix. Give it at least 20 minutes on the brink of boiling (but no further – boiling will evaporate the alcohol, and nobody would want that). Strain the mix, and you’re ready to pour…
Serve in wide glasses or mugs – and ideally use earthenware goblets. The reason for this is that drinkers should be standing outside in the cold, holding the drink in gloved hands, enjoying the delicious twin warmths of holding and sipping. You want a cup that can be cupped.
As a final bonus, all the sugar and spices work as natural preservatives – so leftover mulled wine will keep for a rainy day!