Cocktail Hour: Vin Chaud
I have an affinity for mulled wine, not only because my father is a certifiable wino, (by the fact that he turned my mother’s office into a walk-in wine cellar, not that he is homeless and drinks out of a brown paper bag… not that there’s anything wrong with that…), but mostly because when I was 16, I spent two weeks of winter with a family in Grenoble, France along the glorious French Alps.
First of all, it was ski season, so all the chalets served Vin Chaud (translated: Hot Wine). More importantly, I was in France without my parents, where it was culturally acceptable for me to drink alcohol. We young American exchange students felt rather fancy, sipping our Vin Chaud at the base of the mountain, when truly to the French, it is a rather pedestrian drink made with cheap wine and dressed up with fancy spices. No matter. I still think it tastes delicious.
Warm alcohol has always had that sultry distinction of being able warm you twice: once with the heat of the beverage and once more with the warmth of the alcohol. Popular in countries with temperatures that drop below freezing by the appellation mulled wine, Vin Chaud, Glühwein, or Glögg, it is perfect for cold winter months when your honey is not there to keep you warm.
So, I am offering to you on this fine holiday season a few variations on the theme, as mulled wine need not be too fussy. The main recipe is the most involved, but it can be as easy as throwing everything in a pot until it’s warm. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the ingredients, it’s the spirit that counts. The wine need not be expensive and personally, I prefer something dry: Cabernet over a Syrah, or a cheap Bordeaux, even though I have also had great success with a Grenache. So throw caution to the wind and pour in that Two-Buck-Chuck.
1 750 ml bottle red wine
2 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, halved
6 allspice berries
4 whole cloves
3 star anise
5 cardamom pods
1/2 tbsp lemon peel
1/2 tsp orange peel
1/4 c brown sugar
1 orange, zested and juiced
- With a fine grater, zest, then juice the orange.
- Pop the cardamom pods by pressing firmly on the green pods with a knife or flat wooden spoon.
- In a large pot, (not aluminum), combine zest, juice, cardamom, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, wine, and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves (about 1 to 2 minutes)
- Reduce heat to low; simmer for another 20 minutes with the lid on until the flavors have melded, but without letting too much of the alcohol escape.
- Pour through a sieve so you don’t have any pieces to get stuck in your teeth; garnish with a cinnamon stick or orange peel, if desired. Serve immediately.
If you want to kick it up a notch, add 1/4 c of brandy or Grand Marnier to the mixture before serving.
If you’re feeling lazy/cheap: skip the lemon and orange peels. Simply cut an orange in half, juice it into the pot and throw the halved orange carcasses in after it.
You could even package all the dry ingredients together and give them away as great holiday gifts! Click here to view the packaging design featured on the left and see an adorable stop motion video by the designer Virág Szörényi on Behance.