Well it’s finally getting cold; the leaves on the trees have started to change their colours and have begun to tumble to the ground in droves. To some people this is the start to a very beautiful time of year, to others including myself this time of year is probably the most depressing. Why would someone think that the magnificent colour changing leaves be so disheartening?
That is easy, it’s a sign that summer is over and winter is on its way. No more BBQs, no more lazy days spent beside the pool or the beach sipping a lovely white wine or sangria (or even a wine cooler if so inclined). So more driving around with the windows down and the breeze in your hair, or picnics in the park, instead now it’s raking the leaves, bundling up with scarves and sweaters and rethinking unnecessary trips out of the house because it’s cold!
But all is not lost I suppose! Even though it might be time to trade in our bikini bathing suits for long underwear and retire our BBQs for another year one can now rejoice in the fact that the time of year for hot mulled wine while snuggling in front of a fire is here!
What exactly is mulled wine? Made from red wine, mulled wine (and its various counterparts around the world such as vin chaud, Gluhwien, Forralt bor and vin brulé) has various spices added to it and usually served hot. Sounds perfect for that cold winter evening doesn’t it? A little known fact however is, that mulled wine was not originally created as a warm and festive alternative to regular red wine. Rather, mulled wine was created as a way to make red wine taste better at a time when it would expire and go rancid rather quickly. The addition of a combination of honey and spices helped flavour and thus allowed wine that had turned slightly to be consumed again.
There are a plethora of recipes online and in cook books that suggest the perfect way to make mulled wine. However, most mulled wines consist of the same basic ingredients: orange, nutmeg, clove a sweetener such as honey or sugar and of course red wine. Some like to add brandy, cognac or Grand Marnier to fortify their mulled wines while others give it a minty kick with a candy cane or two.
The wine does not have to be an expensive bottle; most who make mulled wine themselves will actually suggest to anyone interesting in attempting their first batch to begin by using an inexpensive bottle of wine since you are adding so many other flavours. Remember, the original reason for mulled wine was to mask the flavours of spoiled wine so the original recipes did not use high quality vino.
What recipe is the best to use? Well that is always going to be up for debate. As stated above there are pretty standard ingredients that make up the base for a mulled wine. What sort of proportions you add of each and what else you decide to add in addition is only limited to imagination (and of course palatability, don’t want to create a mulled wine that doesn’t taste good!).
If you want to use wine but do not want the alcohol content simply boil the mulled wine for a few moments, those who want to maintain the alcohol are suggested to not boil the wine at all but rather simmer to infuse the flavours of the spices added.
If you find the whole idea of combining all sorts of things together with wine a bit daunting and don’t want to worry about making a batch that is positively ghastly, try the little sachets or bottles of mulled wine syrups that are available in retail outlets. Using these are quite simple and the guesswork is taken out for you but still give you a fantastic mulled wine to enjoy with friends and family over the holidays of simply while snuggling with your loved one on a cold winter evening.
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