The mulled wine or vin chaud in French is perfect for a beautiful Christmas evening with your friends or family.
The end of year celebrations are approaching, Christmas markets are appearing everywhere. And with them, winter traditions like mulled wine. But where does this tradition of drinking mulled wine with sugar, fruit and spices come from?
Mulled wine : History and tradition
The origins of spiced wine
The mixing of wine and spices dates back to Roman times to facilitate digestion. Its name was “Conditium Paradoxum”. It contained mainly honey, spices such as pepper, spikenard, laurel, saffron, roasted date pits to facilitate their digestion during pantagruelian banquets.
They boiled honey in red wine, then spiced. In order to preserve it, they threw hot coals in.
In medieval times, mulled wine was called ypocras or hipocris because it is attributed to Hippocrates. It is a sweeter version of the Roman drink with cloves and cinnamon.
This spicy drink became more similar to the one we taste today! The democratization of spiced wines in Europe started. This is the time when new spices appeared, like the clove and the cinnamon. Later, we added new ingredients such as cardamom or citrus fruits, discovered during the great explorations.
Serving spiced mulled wine during the winter period comes from Northern and Eastern Europe. This drink has become a very popular tradition in France, especially during Christmas markets.
Mulled wine and traditions
The most popular preparation of mulled wine is made with a base of red wine, to which fruits (citrus) and spices (cinnamon) are added. This drink must then be heated but never boiled.
Like any tradition, each country has its own recipe. In Sweden, mulled wine is made with white wine, while in Poland it is similar to the Roman recipe with honey. It’s up to you to decide which one you like the most!
Mulled wine is a beverage with virtues particularly useful in winter: general tonic of the body, stimulant, appetizer (it opens the appetite) but also helps digestion, anti-fatigue, anti-cold, anti-flu and anti-bronchitis.
Red wine, in small quantities, is a formidable anti-oxidant and antiseptic. Grapes also have protective properties for the cardiovascular system.
Depending on the spices used, the complementary virtues will be different.
The choice of wine is important:
The ideal is to opt for a young, fruity and not too tannic red wine. Depending on your taste, choose a Gamay, Merlot, Mourvèdre or Cinsault type of wine or it could be a Bordeaux, Bourgogne or Black Pinot. A median budget (neither a first price nor an expensive wine that would be wasted) will do perfectly.
The traditional ingredients of mulled wine
One bottle of red wine
100g – 1/2 cup of brown sugar, cannonade
1 lemon zest and 1 orange juice and its zest
2 sticks of cinnamon
1 piece of ginger or 1 tsp of powdered ginger
2 stars of badiane (anise star)
A pinch of nutmeg
A sauce pan
You may need a funnel if you decide to serve the wine in a carafe
Zest the lemon and half an orange. Put the wine in a saucepan and add all the ingredients starting with the sugar, then the cinnamon, the anise star, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and zests. Bring the wine to a simmer, without boiling, for a minimum of 5 minutes.
Lower the heat and continue cooking for a few more minutes to allow the spices to release all their flavors.
Turn off the heat, cover and let infuse 1/2 day.
Strain and serve hot, with a slice of citrus fruit.
Serve very hot in glasses, straining with a strainer
Arrange one orange slice per glass.
Replace the wine with red grape juice. In this case, do not sweeten because the juice is already very sweet. I even add 50 cl of water for 1 liter of juice, and I find it quite sweet.
How to serve your Mulled wine during Christmas
Spiced mulled wine is best served in small cups with a decorative touch (a cinnamon stick and an orange slice). You can drink your mulled wine with a slice of chocolate cake, Christmas cookies made with cinnamon and almonds or hot chestnuts: a perfect combo!
Keep your mulled wine in the refrigerator for a few days, and it will even gain in flavor. All you have to do is reheat it, without boiling it. It is then ready to be enjoyed.
You could add other fruits like lemon, dried fig, raisin, slivered almond or various spices (star anise, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, vanilla, ginger, peppers).
The preparation should never boil. 80 degrees is the temperature not to exceed. With a kitchen thermometer you can control your cooking. In order to make a success of your maceration, you need to count at least 20 minutes of heating. The longer the cooking time, the lower the alcohol content and the less acidic the mulled wine will be.
Remember to cover to be sure to keep all the aromas.
If ever you need help for your preparation, do not hesitate to contact me or to book an online cooking class where we could prepare a chocolate moelleux ( lava cake) and my famous mulled one, my favorite Christmas beverage!