Brackenbury has sampled mulled wine in a British pub, where it was served by the glass from simmering vats.
It’s an elegantly simple concoction: Spiced red wine, warmed through. It’s made special by its limitless interpretations. “It’s a homemade product – there’s no one way to do it,” Brackenbury says.
Sticking With Tradition
The British used port and claret – the English term for Bordeaux – to make mulled wine. Traditional spices are cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, but feel free to branch out. Star anise, for example, would add a licorice note. Germans and eastern Europeans have their versions, too; in Germany, it’s known as Glhwein (glow wine), because the irons used to heat it would glow, says Brackenbury.
The drink dates back to the Roman Empire, when the quality of wine was relatively poor. This, Brackenbury says, may be why mulling made it taste better.
To make mulled wine, he recommends using an inexpensive to mid-priced red. Any kind will do. “You’re not using a $500 bottle of Bordeaux. You’re using a $25 bottle.”
Macerate the spices, boil them in some water and add the wine, keeping it warm in a pot on the stovetop, or in another warm vessel. Some recipes call for sugar, so the addition of orange peel is important.
“It has a bitter component and can balance out the sweetness,” Brackenbury says.
Meant For Sharing
Amy Barr of the Barr Estate Winery near Sherwood Park, adds unpasteurized honey from her farm’s bees and a generous lashing of Alberta whiskey. She advocates letting the brew sit for at least four hours to let the spice blend steep.
Barr makes mulled wine every year when cold weather arrives.
“It’s a lovely, warm, yummy beverage while we’re playing outside or playing cards. It’s my favourite celebratory winter drink, and always to be shared with friends and family,” she says.
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Recipe: Barr Family Mulled Wine
Courtesy Amy Barr, Barr Estate Winery
2.5 L raspberry wine
1.5 L rhubarb wine
4 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp whole cloves
Zest of 1 orange
bottle rye whiskey
Break cinnamon sticks and combine in a cheesecloth bag with whole cloves and orange zest.
Pour wines into a 5L crock pot and add spices.
Cover crock pot, but do not let it boil.
Add honey to taste.
Turn off the heat and leave wine to sit for a few hours with the lid on.
Just before serving, reheat and add rye whiskey.
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