Mulling it over

Is there anything so perfect on a cold winter’s night as a warm mug of mulled wine? How about a warm mug of mulled wine while sitting in the glow of freshly strung holiday lights while your true love reads humorous bits to you from the internet? It may be cold outside (about 18 degrees here, btw), but it’s warm in here, where the clothes dryer is providing the perfect backbeat to the comedic reading. It’s awesome.

Some wine purists cringe at the notion of pouring perfectly good vino into a pot and adulterating it with juice and spices and warming it like a big bowl of holiday potpourri.

Well, we don’t care. This is one of the great things about sticking to wine priced under $10 per bottle — you don’t feel too bad about emptying a liter or two into the spaghetti pot. We sacrificed a six-year-old bottle of Driftwood Bay Barbera from Austalia’s Mudgee wine-growing region ($4.99 at Grocery Outlet).

So that’s what we’re doing now Drinking and huddling in the soft glow of twinkling LEDs, thinking about what a really expensive bottle of wine might taste like and that we’ll never know because we are pretty much signing the next two paychecks over to the power company to pay for all the blinkly-twinkly holiday goodness.

Oh well.

Here’s our recipe for hot spiced wine. Feel free to add your own in the comments, or let us know what “secret” ingredients you put in your holiday wine. We won’t tell. Promise.

2 qts black cherry juice (we only had cran-grape; it works just fine)

3 three-inch sticks of cinnamon

6 whole cloves

12 oz. pineapple juice (we drained canned pineapple and floated a few rings in the pot; it works just fine)

2/3 cup sugar

1 bottle of cabernet sauvignon (we were fresh out of cab, so we used a bottle of Australian Barbera. It works just fine.)

1/3 cup of lime juice

1 cup of orange juice

Heat everything but the wine and lime juice until it boils. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in the wine and lime juice. Don’t boil. Discard the chunky stuff and serve warm.

Folks have been enjoying variations of this cold-season nectar for centuries. In Germany, they call it Gluhwein, which sounds kinda gross, but you can get bottles of it in most import shops, including Cost Plus World Market.

According to the Wikipedia, the oldest documented Glühwein tankard is attributed to the German nobleman and first Riesling grower of the world, Count John IV around 1420.

There are seemingly endless recipes for this holiday elixir, but most include cinnamon, cloves and citrus. In Moldova, they make their hot wine with black pepper and honey.

In Latvia, they take their karstvins (“hot wine”) more seriously than anywhere else in the world. When they run out of wine, they mix grape juice with something called Riga Black Balsam, which is basically pure vodka mixed with various natural ingredients. It’s 90 proof — guaranteed to take the chill off a cold winter’s night.

No matter what you prefer to put into your favorite solstice toddy, you’re part of a tradition that predates Columbus’ first trip across the Atlantic.

Whether you are just trying to blunt winter’s hard edge, or whether you’re trying to combine a sugar high with your drunken stupor, it’s hard to beat a nice, warm spiced wine.



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