Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Greet your guests with a MULLED WINE for the holidays

For today's post, I will be paying an homage (out right stealing) to the writing style of Mary at ONE PERFECT BITE. Her recipes are terrific, but she also tells little histories of the items she cooks. So, here's a little history lesson...

From the Kitchen of My Year on the Grill... Mulled wine is a festive drink traditionally served during winter, especially around Christmas time. Historically, wine often would go bad. By adding spices and honey, it could be made drinkable again.

Glögg is served in Nordic countries as their recipe for mulled wine, similarly, Germans call theirs, Glühwein. The German recipe calls for cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, citrus, sugar, almonds and raisins. Fruit wines (lesser quality wines) such as blueberry and cherry were sometimes used as substitutes for better quality grape wines. The oldest Glühwein tankard is documented in the high noble German and first Riesling grower of the world, Count John IV. of Katzenelnbogen around 1420. This gold-plated lockable silver tankard imitating the traditional wine woven wooden can is called Welcome.

Romania, Moldavia and even Northern Italy (
vin brulè) serve a version of Mulled Wine. notice that these are all cold weather climates. Difficult to maintain wine cellar temperatures, so the odds of wine going bad were pretty good. Necessity, more than festivites were the mother of this invention.

Today, All over Scandinavia 'glögg parties' are often held during the month before Christmas.
In Sweden, ginger bread and lussebullar, a type of sweet bun with saffron and raisins, are typically served. It is also traditionally served at jullbord,, the Christmas buffet. In Denmark, gløgg parties or Julefrokoster typically include aebleskiver sprinkled with powdered sugar and accompanied with strawberry marmalade. In Norway, gløgg parties with gløgg and rice pudding (Norwegian: risengrynsgraut/ risengrynsgrøt) are common. In such cases the word graut-/grøtfest is more precise, taking the name from the rice pudding which is served as a course. Typically, the gløgg is drunk before eating the rice pudding, which is often served with cold, red cordial (saft).

If there is such a thing as "traditional English" mulled wine, then an authoritative recipe might be found in MRS BEETON's BOOK OF HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT at paragraph 1961 on page 929 to 930 of the revised edition dated 1869:
INGREDIENTS.- To every pint of wine allow 1 large cupful of water, sugar and spice to taste.
Mode.-In making preparations like the above, it is very difficult to give the exact proportions of ingredients like sugar and spice, as what quantity might suit one person would be to another quite distasteful. Boil the spice in the water until the flavour is extracted, then add the wine and sugar, and bring the whole to the boiling-point, when serve with strips of crisp dry toast, or with biscuits. The spices usually used for mulled wine are cloves, grated nutmeg, and cinnamon or mace. Any kind of wine may be mulled, but port and claret are those usually selected for the purpose; and the latter requires a very large proportion of sugar. The vessel that the wine is boiled in must be delicately cleaned, and should be kept exclusively for the purpose. Small tin warmers may be purchased for a trifle, which are more suitable than saucepans, as, if the latter are not scrupulously clean, they spoil the wine, by imparting to it a very disagreeable flavour. These warmers should be used for no other purpose. Picture any Charles Dicken's era Christmas celebration, and a hearty glass of mulled wine (or Wassail (mulled mead or beer)) will be included.
And at this point, I am going to make a HUGE jump from ONE PERFECT BITE, and divulge my cheating recipe for Mulled Wine... In my sordid wicked past, I received corporate gift packages on occasion. One of those gifts was one of those huge gift baskets (think Harry and David) of obscure food packages. Fancy tins of biscuits (cookies), jam and marmalade (jelly), tins of oysters and sealed packages of salmon. AND, this particular package included mulling bags. They looked similar to tea bags. These sat in my pantry for years. recently, in an attempt to share a kitchen, my wife and I have started cleansing space. I saw these, and knew I wanted to use them for my next winter party. I followed the package directions...

one bottle of wine,
a cup of brandy
and the mull bags.

Allow to simmer for an hour

The idea was to make the house smell straight out of a Dicken's story and greet each arriving guest with a warm toddy to get us in the mood.

It didn't work.

Possibly because the spices were so old, possibly because it was unseasonably warm, and our guests arrived in shirt sleeves, instead of bundled up in coats when a warm drink would have been more welcome, possibly because I allowed it to get too warm, or possibly because mulled wine just sucks, but mine sucked. A while back, I posted this recipe...
Hot Apple Cider & Brandy Toddy for around the firepit. If and when I try this idea again, I will use this hot toddy recipe. The kitchen smelled great, and everyone loved the taste. My favorite book and story of all time is Charles Dicken's, "A Christmas Carol". I was interested in trying to recapture a bit of that story in my greeting for my guests. A Mulled Wine greeting sounds so Dickensian. Instead, from now on, I am sticking to the image of a Vermont farmhouse at the Holidays with a Brandy/Cider hot toddy.

Thanks Mary for the inspiration to make a failed experiment sound so classy (not that your cooking ever fails). And I must be honest, much of the information I printed above was stolen word for word from Wikepedia, and what was not out right stolen, I simply changed a few words.


  1. Thanks for the info Davipedia :) Mulled wine is a favorite at our place as well. There is a small winery nearby that makes a wine that works real well for mulled wine - believe we'll make up a batch for Thursday - thanks for the reminder.

  2. Never had mulled wine, we always had cider. I will have to try that cider/brandy recipe because when it is 40 below zero I need something to warm me up!

  3. Mulled wine is my favourite festive drink. Way more than eggnog...plus it tends to promote lost articles of clothing (loooooong story involving me, the National Guard and Washington DC)

  4. Wine never goes bad around our house.

  5. Mulled wine is quite evocative, isn't it? Love the Dickens allusion. If I drank brandy I'd be making a lot of new friends by whom I'm only know them by their first names.