I am not a winter person. Even though I have spent most of my life in cold cities (Boston, New York, Beijing), I always dread their endless winters. Some people from northern climes can wax poetic about snow, fire places, and ski season. Me, I conjure up flu season, ugly long underwear, and bitter winds that lash across my face. No offense, Winter, but I would love to avoid you altogether by skipping to the tropics. Or hibernating until spring.
Until science finds a way for humans to sleep for 4 months, I am finding solace in the next best thing. Alcohol. More specifically, hot alcohol.
Mulled wine, also called Glühwein in Germany and Glögg in the Nordic countries, is simply wine heated up with spices and sugar. It’s an especially good drink to make if you live in a country devoid of good wine, like China. Domestic brands are mostly undrinkable, and any imported wines are either bottom-of-the-barrel gunk (literally?) or bottles 3 or 4 times the cost overseas. (How I miss Trader Joe’s wine shops.) With mulled wine, you can buy the cheapest wine that is still drinkable, and allow the spices and sugar to take charge.
For flavorings, I use a cinnamon stick, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, golden raisins, and vanilla. Some recipes will also suggest blanched almonds, orange and lemon peels, and bitters. I like to use a strong-bodied red wine like cabernet, and you can also add some brandy or vodka. Think of this recipe as a template, and think of other possibilities. As for the cooking vessel, I just use a small pot, though I may have to try a Crock-Pot, which a reader on Maki’s Glühwein post on Just Hungry suggested.
The most important thing to remember about mulled wine is to not let it boil. Unless, of course, you’re aiming for non-alcoholic. Though for me, that would just make winter seem just a bit longer.
More winter drink favorites:
1 bottle full-bodied red wine, like cabernet or merlot
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
6 to 8 cloves
6 to 8 golden raisins
1 pinch nutmeg
1 vanilla bean or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup white sugar
In a small saucepot, simmer wine and all other ingredients except sugar over low heat for about 30 minutes. Do not let the wine come to a boil. After 30 minutes, stir in sugar until fully melted. Take wine off heat, strain out solids, and serve while hot.