In Frank Capras holiday film, Its A Wonderful Life, a guardian angel walks into a bar and asks for mulled wine heavy on the cinnamon, easy on the cloves. For many, hot wine, which would be unthinkable in any other season, is a heavenly drink at this time of year.
It has been a wintry favourite for a long time with almost as names as it has recipes: glögg in Scandinavia, gluhwein in Austria, a bishop in England when made with port, and the Medieval drinks of Clarrey which included honey and spices, Caudell which was thickened with eggs and Ypocras which comes closest to the mulled wine or cider we know today.
However the drink is made, the spices always include the highly aromatic ones common in Britain and Northern Europe hundreds of years ago: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, mace, perhaps cardamom and a citrus peel. Honey or sugar is often added for a sweeter drink but these arent always used. What used to be a common drink, however, now seems exoctic. Although fancy packaging has made the ingredients in mulled wine spice sachets seem esoteric and expensive; most of us probably have everthing we need on our spice shelves.
You can experiment with the spices mentioned above but a typical recipe for mulled wine would be a tablespoon of honey or sugar, a stick of cinnamon, and a large pinch each of ginger, nutmeg, mace, cloves and cardamom for each cup of wine or cider or even apple juice. Fortunately the wine does not have to be expensive. Most red depanneur plonk works quite nicely thank you.
It is important not to boil the wine, but simply heat the spices in the wine over a low heat and stir occasionally until the sugar or honey is completely dissolved. For a clearer drink, strain the hot wine through a coffee filter before serving. As you raise a glass, you might consider proffering this heart-warming toast:
Beaujolais, Beaujolais, appellation controllée
Beaujolais est jolie, parfumé et chaud
Bon santé et cheerio.