In many parts of the world, Christmas Eve is commemorated with a hot cup of mulled wine. It was all the rage in Victorian England, where it was referred to as Smoking Bishop (Dickens mentions it in A Christmas Carol). It’s called Gluhwein in Germany and Austria, and in Scandanavia they know it as Glogg. Apparently, Glogg is so popular in the Nordic countries that packages of pre-mixed spices are sold in the grocery stores as a shortcut.
We’re not likely to hit Arctic conditions here in South Florida, although the temperature could go as low as 60 degrees tonight, which certainly qualifies as freezing by our standards. Either way, a cup of mulled wine is a splendid way to celebrate Christmas. It’s quick and easy to prepare, and is an interesting alternative to eggnog. It also provides a use for leftover red wine—if you like, you can view it as the warm version of Sangria. Like Sangria, it can also be cheap, since the wine involved doesn’t have to be very good. The creation of mulled wine is not the occasion for which you’ve been saving those prized bottles of Lafite.
There isn’t a definitive way to make mulled wine, although most of the recipes are similar. You’ll need a bottle of full-bodied red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, three or four cups of apple juice or cider, a handful of whole cloves, some grated nutmeg, and one cinnamon stick per person. The question of how much sugar is a matter of individual taste. Most recipes call for half a cup, but some people would find this too sweet; start with a few tablespoons, since you can adjust it as you go along. Honey is a nice alternative to sugar. Zest and juice a whole orange, and add it to the mix. Finally, many people advocate adding several ounces (or more) of rum or brandy; crank down the A/C, and let your conscience be your guide.
Simmer all the ingredients on the stove for about five minutes. Pour into cups, garnish with a cinnamon stick, and settle in to unwrap those presents.
Mark Spivak is the author is Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot). For more information, go to iconicspirits.net.