Mulled spiced wine is a simple and delicious winter warmer. The slightly sweetened and slightly spiced wine is a nice alternative to mulled cider or hot chocolate when the temperatures drop. Closely associated with German Christmas Markets, the Kristkindlmarkt, this wine drink is perfect all winter long.
The basic ingredients for mulled spiced wine are:
1 750ml bottle of dry Red Wine
1/2-3/4 cup Honey, to taste
Juice and Zest from one Orange
2 Cinnamon Sticks
1 Star Anise (optional)
There is no need to break the bank on the wine. In fact, a cheap wine may be the best bet as the subtle flavors of a more expensive wine will be overwhelmed by the spices. A light to medium bodied zinfandel, merlot, or burgundy is recommended. Tasting the wine before using it is a good idea. This will allow you to adjust the amount of sweetener you use.
To make the mulled spiced wine, combine all the ingredients into a large stock pot and warm gently. Be sure not to boil, or even simmer, the wine as the alcohol will quickly evaporate. Keep the temperature of the mulled wine below the 173 degree boiling point of ethyl alcohol. Allow the wine to sit at temperature for an hour or more for all the flavors to meld. To serve, ladle the mulled spiced wine into mugs and garnish with a cinnamon stick or an orange wheel.
This is the sort of recipe that you change each time you make it, seeking perfection. The truth is, however, that each batch is wonderful, and the perfection comes not from the list of ingredients that goes into the wine, but rather from the company you have to share it with. That was the lesson I learned last winter.
It was late January, and we had just had a fairly substantial snowfall. My girlfriend and I wanted to go enjoy the snow, but we knew a lot of the sledding hills and well-blazed trails would be heavily populated. There was, however, a great spot in one of the local metropolitan parks that not too many people know about. We also had a bottle of merlot, fairly dry and light-bodied, from a local winery that I thought would be perfect for this mulled wine recipe.
We made the mulled spiced wine and poured it into a large thermos. We placed that thermos and a couple of plastic mugs into a small backpack and headed out to the park. This particular park features a number of hills and small streams. Just as we crested one of the hills, we made sure no one was around and ducked off the main trail and onto a long-abandoned side trail that we had found the summer before. We set off down this trail, crunching through pristine snow as we went deeper and deeper into the woods. Our destination was an old bridge that crossed one of the small streams in a little, secluded hollow.
We found a small evergreen bough that had broken off in the storm and used that to clear off a small area of the bridge, then sat there, over the slowly moving water, and enjoyed the mulled wine and each other’s company. About halfway through the wine, we were treated to the sight of two squirrels hopping and scampering through the snow at the edge of the stream.
The combination of the warmed, spiced wine, the calm, cold day, and the good company of one another made this a truly memorable experience. This is the perfection that a mulled spiced wine can bring into your life.