I have a confession to make: I’m not a connoisseur when it comes to wine; which is odd considering that my grandfather used to make homemade wine every fall, and now my parents are taking a stab at his recipe and they’re getting closer and closer to perfecting it. So, wine is something I’ve always been familiar with, but unfortunately never grown to really appreciate it. If I’m in the mood for a drink when dining out I’ll most likely opt for a cocktail. Occasionally, I may fall for a Riesling… or anything sweeter than that. I rarely drink red wine except from when it’s hot and infused with winter spices. Hence, confession number two: I have a soft spot for Hot Mulled Wine.
Once the cold days arrive and the holidays are approaching, everyone in Romania (and most of Europe) from the fanciest restaurant to the neighborhood tavern serves hot mulled wine – vin fiert. And I’m just like a kid in a candy store, barely containing my excitement until I get to order a glass of aromatic hot mulled wine.
There’s something warm and comforting about mulled wine. It warms you up on frigid winter days; it’s perfect to enjoy while out with your friends, while taking a break from the ski slopes or opening gifts by the Christmas tree. But more often than not I love sipping it while snuggling by the fireplace or lounging on the couch on a cold and snowy night.
Mulled wine is generally made with red wine; and even the cheapest red wine will work wonders. I toss a variety of spices in my mulled wine just like my grandma taught me, but instead of using plain sugar to sweeten it up I prefer the delicate agave nectar or honey. I also like just a stick of cinnamon in there because it gives the wine a nice and soothing nuance without being overpowering; the cardamom adds a tart lemony rush, the black peppercorns bring a… well… peppery kick while the cloves and star anise enhance the warmth and aromas. And, for a fruity and citrusy accent, orange slices are an inspired addition. Hot mulled wine is not your super-luxe holiday drink; instead, it’s a relaxed, fun and festive way to celebrate the winter holidays. Cheers and Happy New Year everyone!
Hot Mulled Wine
Serves: 4 servings
· 1 liter (4 cups) red wine
· Heaped 1/3 cup light agave nectar (or honey)
· 1 cinnamon stick
· 1 star anise
· 3 cardamom pods
· 5 whole cloves
· 10 black peppercorns
· Orange slices for serving
Pour the wine in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the agave nectar, cinnamon stick, star anise, cardamom pods, cloves and peppercorns. Whisk until the agave nectar dissolves. When the wine gets to the boiling point turn the heat off. Let it stand for 10-15 minutes. Pour the mulled wine into glasses (strain the spices out); add orange slices and enjoy responsibly!
Note: I really like this combination of spices in my mulled wine, but you can spice it up as you fancy; toss in or toss out whichever spices you like. Also, you can opt for apple or lemon slices instead of oranges. The options are endless.