Mull This Over
Spice up your wine on chilly nights
After a long summer of broiling in the New Mexico heat, cooler temperatures are finally in the forecast. It’s time to dump that jug of margarita mix down the drain, throw out those Coronas and serve something more seasonal.
Though it's seldom seen this close to the border, a cozy cup of warm, spiced wine is best paired with crisp evenings and cashmere sweaters. Mulled wine takes the chill out of your bones as well as it takes the edge off.
For centuries mulling was the solution to wine that had crept past its prime. The addition of spices and careful heating to the offending juice gave spoiled wine a second life—the spice took away from the bite of over-fermentation and the warmth brought it all together. It didn’t take long for the bolstered brew to catch on as a fall and winter staple.
Mugs of the aromatic concoction were believed to lift more than the drinker’s spirits. People in medieval times attributed good health to the drink. At the time it went by the name Hipocris, after the "father of medicine" Hippocrates. Of course, alcohol was safer to drink than water in those days, so our ancestors weren’t too far off the mark. And who’s to say a mug a day really won’t keep the flu and head colds away? It’s certainly a tastier alternative to vaccinations and VapoRub.
There are several variations of this fragrant libation, most originating in Europe where wine and cold weather are found in abundance. They most often consist of red wine, honey and any number of spices such as cinnamon, cloves and even black pepper. It can occasionally be found made from white wine, usually in Romania. Many recipes even call for a fortifying splash of brandy or Cognac. There’s no end to the diverse nature of this forgiving cocktail.
While mulled wine is often associated with the winter holiday season, it’s appropriate to offer it as soon as the weather permits. The spices and fruits used to give the wine a seasonal flair are as at home in October as they are in December.
Here's a traditional recipe that's simple to make and bound to catch your guests off-guard. Choose a red wine that's relatively inexpensive, but don’t use anything that you wouldn’t drink on its own. Bad wine that's heated up will only become terrible wine. Try a Bordeaux or a Zinfandel but avoid oaky wines. If you decide to use a white, a Riesling would do nicely.
Be careful that you don’t boil the wine, or the alcohol will evaporate. You can keep it warm for several hours, but don’t try to reheat cold mulled wine. This will result in a bitter, stale drink. You can always prepare the recipe in a slow cooker or crockpot. This method will gently heat the wine and keep it nice and warm.
For those who prefer a nonalcoholic treat, or want to include the kiddies in the fun, try the mulled cider recipe.