festive spirit

Christmas in a glass

Okay, so this really isn’t a “post” post. It’s a food post. Rather a drink post, if you will. But after all, it is Christmas. And keeping in mind the “spirit of Christmas”, I felt I should share a quick fire recipe for one of the “spirits” of Christmas - Mulled Wine. My first tryst with mulled wine was about five Christmases before, at my wife’s office party. Needless to say, I was hooked from the very first sip. If I were to describe the feeling, I’d say it is “warm and fuzzy”, and hence a perfect drink for the cold weather.

Now, mulled wine is a warm drink which is traditionally as Christmassy (is that a word?) as Egg-Nog. And it can be both alcoholic or non-alcoholic (it depends on the wine). Now, in most Western countries, mulled wine is available as a bottled product across the counters. However, nothing beats a good home-brewed mulled wine. So here’s the quick recipe for it. Oh, and for the purpose of the post, I’ll spare you the trouble and advise you to buy a bottle of red-wine, rather than make it.

It goes without saying that the taste for wine is usually acquired. You have to sample them, and let your taste buds get accustomed to the flavours that characterise the wine. Although the same goes for mulled wine, it's rapid acceptance is mainly due to the right blend of spices and sweetness.

Equip yourself with:

  • A bottle of Italian medium-bodied red wine. If you can’t find it or need suggestions, I’d say Zinfandel, Merlot, Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon). I personally prefer merlot for this. Sometimes Shiraz can work as well because of the “berry” flavours

  • Couple of Oranges or Clementines. Keep one of them whole. The others can be cut. Use more if you’d like a more tangy flavour. I’d say two is a good number

  • Lemon x 1; Again you can use more, if you need the tangy and sour feel. But I’d recommend to use just 1

  • Cloves x 20 buds

  • Cinnamon sticks; I’d say 5 pieces should suffice

  • A small piece of ginger. It’s not mandatory if you don’t like the taste

  • A handful of raisins

  • Sugar to taste

Optional extras:

Vanilla Pod Star Anise Nutmeg (Needs to be whole, as it will need to be grated) This should ideally take about 10 minutes of preparation and 20 minutes on the stove

How to: 

  1. The best way to reduce the spiciness of the cloves is to stick them into “whole” orange. The rest of the oranges and lemon(s) can be cut into quarters and kept aside.

  2. Pre-heat a reasonable sized saucepan to medium heat. Add the whole clove-infused orange along with the rest of the orange and lemon pieces to the saucepan. Mix the cinnamon sticks, ginger, raisins and any left over cloves with the orange and lemon pieces.

  3. As soon as they start to slightly sizzle (which will take no more than 30 seconds to a minute), pour half the bottle of wine over this fruit and spice mixture. Just pour enough wine to cover the mixture. It’s important to create a syrupy base first. If you add the full bottle of wine, you would have burned off a lot of the alcohol content.

  4. Make sure the saucepan is on medium heat. Once you start to see a bit of steam rising, add the sugar.  I’d say use 6-8 teaspoons of sugar. You can add more slightly later. Give this a good stir, to ensure it mixes well. If  you do need to add the vanilla pod, star anise and nutmeg, this is the ideal time to do so.

  5. Reduce the hear to low and let the wine simmer. After about 5 minutes, you should start to see bubbles forming and more steam rising. Stir well and then leave on the low heat for about 10-15 minutes, for the flavours to infuse.

  6. After about 15 minutes, take a taste and if it is still too acidic for you, add a few more spoons of sugar. Add the rest of the wine and simmer it for about 5 more minutes.

  7. Once you’re relatively happy with the taste, take it off the heat and leave it aside to cool for a bit. Remember, mulled wine is a drink that’s best served warm or hot, so don’t let it cool down a lot. Carefully remove all the large pieces of fruits and other spices into a large bowl. Then empty the liquid wine onto the bowl as well.

  8. Using a sieve, carefully ladle out the wine into glasses which can withstand the heat. Add a cinnamon stick, some orange zest (and cherries if you have them), and you’re done.

Image courtesy TripAdvisor

There you go; You’ve just been served Christmas in a glass :)