In ancient cultures, whenever there were fermented beverages—-ale, beer, wine—there were hot versions created to ward off the winter chill. Whether heated in the pot with sugar and spices, or with the simple expedient of plunging a hot iron poker into the mug, winter warming drinks abounded.
When distilled spirits became available, they too were heated. And quite often the spirits were added to the wine or beer to enhance the restorative effects and provide a different kind of warmth.
Hot mulled wine is still popular today. And it is easy to make at home for your festive occasions.
Hot Mulled Wine
In medieval times, for the upper crust, instead of cider there was hot mulled wine. Almost every culture had their own traditional recipe to warm the hands, the stomach and the heart in the depths of winter, and the recipe tended to be dependent upon how much the hosts wanted to impress guests with the exotic and expensive spices and fruits they could afford to use. This was ostentation indeed, since the spices and dried fruits, laboriously shipped from faraway lands, were literally worth their weight (or more) in gold and jewels.
This combination of wine, fruit, and spices widely varied, but today the most popular version remains the Nordic-inspired glögg, often rendered as glog or glug. In Germany, they call it gluehwein.
Here’s a standard glögg recipe from the Scandinavia Travel site on About.com.
1 bottle of red wine
0.5 Liter inexpensive brandy or vodka
10 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick (broken down)
1/2 orange peel (dried or fresh)
1/2 lbs sugar (regular or lumps)
Optional additions: 5 cloves, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup almonds, 5 dried figs
Heat the wine and brandy spices, fruit, and nuts in a pot (and any optional additions you might like.) Be careful not to boil the mixture; just let it simmer for about 45 minutes. Then, strain through a cloth to remove all additions.
Serve your glögg hot over lumped sugar (or with regular granulated sugar).
Optional: You can also serve the glögg with raisons or almonds. If you’d like the drink to be stronger, use more brandy. This glögg recipe makes approximately 1.5 Liter (close to 1/2 gallon).
You can find any number of pre-packaged mixes for mulled wine and cider these days. But why use a mix? Making mulled wine is not that difficult; it’s hard to screw up (just remember not to let the wine boil!); and it is fun to make. Paying an inordinate amount of money for bundled ingredients you can find in any grocery store is questionable. Paying money for what is probably stale, dried out, and flavorless sugary powders is more so. Do it yourself: heat some wine, add some brandy, and play around by adding the fruits and spices that appeal to you.
To add a kick to the mulled wine, use more brandy. For a heavier and sweeter style, use a rich ruby port. Or for variety, consider using any of the multitudes of fruit and spice-based liqueurs out there. Black Raspberry—Chambord. Pomegranate—Pama. Bitter orange—Cointreau or Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao. There’s even a great liqueur, St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram from Jamaica, that makes a wonderfully spicy addition to a mulled wine. Use these sparingly; they are intense and will easily dominate the mixture.