I adore the smell of mulled wine. It smells like Christmas and happiness and fireplaces and love. I hadn’t thought about mulled wine in ages until a visit to Borough Market with my sister last fall. The market is amazing on it own. It was only enhanced by the beautiful smell of oranges and star anise simmering away in huge pots of red wine. Holding it between two cold hands and sipping while shopping for amazing food is one of the best ways to spend a chilly afternoon in this great grey city.
I am one of the few people that doesn’t really like drinking mulled wine. I am sure there are others of you out there, but I don’t know who you are. Every other person to whom I have confessed my misgivings about the universal Christmassy drink thinks I am mad. So why post a recipe for something I don’t care for? Because every single person I know loves mulled wine and this is the season of thinking of others.
Host a holiday party. Or offer to make mulled wine for a friend’s holiday party. Or have a playdate with 3 or 4 moms. Whatever. I promise that if you put on a pot of mulled wine, each and every person who crossed your threshold will relax just a little more and be just a little happier. Those who like to drink it, even more so. Just make sure to have a little unmulled wine for people like me.
My husband came up with our recipe. It is easy to make mulled wine smell nice. Making it taste really lovely is actually somewhat tricky. In preparation for a Halloween party this year, he went to half a dozen recipes to work out the ingredients and methods that seemed to work the best. The final result took pieces from recipes in my Leiths Cookery Bible, Jamie Oliver and Goop. He put a lot of love into the making of the mulled wine and the results were gorgeous. Even a mulled wine skeptic like me was impressed.
Friends have been asking for the recipe ever since. So, here it is. Make this and invite people over. You will not regret it.
Steve’s Mulled Wine
Regarding the wine choice, there were lots of suggestions for merlot or cabernet. I am sure they are nice but with thespices, I thought they would be too full bodied and spicy. Too much of a good thing really. We ended up choosing a inexpensive Chilean pinot noir. It was lighter than the other suggestions but more full bodied than an American pinot. I still think this is the right call. But regardless, the real key is not necessarily to buy something nice, but don’t buy something bad. No matter how much spice or sugar you add, you will still taste the underlying wine.
1 orange sliced into 5-6 pieces, squeeze the juice into the mix
1 lemon peel in strips
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
2 star anise
2 bottles red wine
400ml/1.75 cups water
Basically, you’re just mixing all of the ingredients and bringing to a simmer. But, the risk is bringing it to a full boil for too long and boiling off the alcohol (gasp!). The better approach is to add the sugar, orange slices, lemon peels, cloves, cinnamon sticks and bay leaves to a big pot and add just enough wine to cover the sugar. Bring this mixture to a full boil for 5-10 min to make a syrup. Then add the rest of the wine, the water and the star anise and simmer, just short of a boil. The water is necessary to keep the mulled wine from being too thick or syrupy, but it can be added to taste. Let simmer long enough to fill the house with the smell — that’s half the fun.
Serve warm and enjoy.
Note: Of the other common ingredients in other recipes, I skipped the vanilla bean, limes, and peppercorns– just my preference but feel free to experiment with them.