CAPSULE REPORT: In olden times, all foods—including wine—often spoiled. Spices and honey could salvage bad wine. The hot spiced wine evolved into a cup of Christmas cheer; these days it is consumed all winter. Here, easy recipes for these special drinks—including alcohol-free mulled cider for kids and non-drinkers. This is Page 1 of a three-page article. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.
The expression “cup of good cheer” that comes to us from Merrie Olde England refers to hot mulled cider and wine. So whether or not you have a fireplace, horse and sleigh, invite friends over to share that cup.
When the days grow darker and the leaves start to turn, our Seasonal Affective Disorder starts to kick in. One of the palliatives: a comforting mug of spicy warm glögg, mulled wine or mulled cider using a handy pouch of mulling spices we gather for the winter like squirrels gather nuts. We’ll pull out the canister of cinnamon sticks, measure out a little allspice, mix in some dried orange peel and drop in a few whole cloves.
What is “mulled” wine or cider? The word means to heat, sweeten and flavor with spices for drinking. Ale is also mulled.
To make your own mulling mix, select three or four of the following, varying the recipe each time until you find your favorite recipe:
- Allspice berries, 4
- Black peppercorns, 3
- Cardamom pods, 5
- Cloves, 4 whole
- Cinnamon stick, 1
- Ginger, 3 slices fresh
- Orange peel, from 1/2 orange or 1 teaspoon dried
- Star anise, 1
- Vanilla bean, 1, halved lengthwise
Wrap and tie the spices in a cheesecloth so they can be easily removed from the wine.
See the next page for information on mulling spice blends, which make nice house gifts and stocking stuffers.
Mulled Wine Recipe
Brew up a pot of mulled wine as soon it gets nippy. The spicy aroma will fill your home and neighbors might just show up at your door with an empty cup (and not to borrow a cup of sugar). Mulled wine is usually made with red wine, which works best with hearty spices as a winter drink. But if you’re a white wine fan, see if you can concoct something that pleases your palate.
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon mulling spices, tied in a
- 1 bottle dry red wine, e.g.
Côtes du Rhône
- 1 cup brandy
Fragrant cinnamon is one of the essential ingredients in a mulling spice mix. We use fresh sticks to garnish mulled drinks. Photo by Jozsef Szoke | SXC.
In a large saucepan, heat the water and add the sugar and mulling spices. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add wine and turn down heat to low. Cook at a low temperature, never allowing the wine to simmer, for 10 more minutes. Remove from heat, add the brandy, and serve in mugs or glass teacups.
Mulled Apple Cider Recipe
Mulled apple cider simply substitutes apple cider for the wine, water and brandy. Winter’s chill doesn’t stand a chance against a body full of hot apple cider. Don’t let the simplicity of this recipe fool you: It’s hot, spicy and satisfying and it is the perfect beverage to serve to the kids after a snowball fight. (Adults, you can add some Calvados apple brandy.)
- 8 cups apple cider (or apple juice)
- 1 tablespoon mulling spices, tied in a cheesecloth
- 1 ounce Calvados or other brandy per mug (optional)
- Combine the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Discard the spices and serve in mugs with a cinnamon stick.
- If using Calvados or other brandy, measure a jigger into mug prior to adding hot cider.
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