When the temperatures drop, when shop windows are lined in blinking lights, and when holiday guests arrive by the dozen, it's that time to brew hot, spiced, mulled red wine and breathe in the aroma of Christmas in a glass.
The tradition of spicing wine goes back to the Ancient Greek wine hippocras, was subsequently kept alive by Italian monasteries and later the Victorians and is still much enjoyed today in both Italy and the United States. The recipes have changed over the centuries in countless variations, from using white wine to adding egg yolks, from elaborate preparations to sitting the mix in a clay pot all day long without even bothering to heat it.
Today, the most notable difference among recipes is the counsel on boiling the wine for a long enough time to let the alcohol evaporate (in Italy); or an emphasis on boiling just enough to mix the sugar and to avoid alcohol evaporation as much as possible (in the US and UK), sometimes even adding brandy or additional alcohol.
Vin Brulè is the Piedmontese name of hot mulled wine, and its recipe is easy and forgivable:
- 2 bottles of red wine
- 220 gr / 7 oz / slightly less than 1 cup sugar
- 1 organic lemon
- 1 organic orange
- 1-2 star anise
- 8 cloves
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- Pinch of nutmeg
Peel the skin from the orange and lemon. Combine the fruit skin, spices, sugar, and just enough wine to cover the sugar in a saucepan. Heat the wine to boiling and stir constantly until it becomes a syrup; add the rest of the wine and keep warm (not boiling, so as not to evaporate the alcohol), ladling out portions to guests as they file in your door.
- 1 apple, sliced thinly
- Peel of 1 lime
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 vanilla pod
- Pinch of ginger