It was Christmastime in Prague when I first had a steaming, fragrant cup of mulled wine. Just the thought of its clove and orange aroma transports me back to that snowy night in the crowded holiday market with twinkling lights strung between lampposts and the vibrating sounds of church bells. The passing of every few stalls promised another vendor selling the hot drink, which warmed our fingers—and our souls—with each sip.
Referred to as glühwein (literally “glow wine”) in Europe or glögg in Nordic countries, this traditional winter drink consists of red wine, spices, sugar, orange and spirits such as vodka or brandy. The best red wines to use for mulled wine tend to be semi-dry and full-bodied—zinfandel, merlot or cabernet. The version I had in Prague contained slivered almonds and plumped raisins.
At Cambridge newcomer Catalyst, bar manager Jason Kilgore makes a Swedish-inspired glögg using aquavit, a grain- or potato-based Scandinavian spirit that gets its distinct flavor from spices and herbs, most notably caraway. Instead of wine, he uses port and sherry along with an array of spices and dates, prunes and slivered almonds. Island Creek Oyster Bar in Kenmore Square makes a delicious traditional mulled wine using red wine, brandy, cinnamon sticks, allspice, cardamom, cloves, star anise, vanilla bean, orange and nutmeg. Salem’s 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar combines merlot and cider for a flavorful Fall-to-Winter result. And Boston-based chef and restaurateur Ken Oringer’s Hot Mulled Cider utilizes fresh quince and rosemary.
Whether you’re hosting for the holidays or braving the outdoors at a tailgate party, these mulled wines, spiked ciders and hot toddies will warm you right up.
62’s Mulled Wine
1.5 liter bottle of Merlot
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup cider
2 whole cloves
3 whole cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
3 whole allspice berries
Add all ingredients into a pot and let steep for approximately 30 minutes. (To avoid bitterness, do not bring to a boil.) Add lemon and/or orange zest to taste and serve in a mug with a cinnamon stick.
1 gallon apple cider
3/4 cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay
1/4 cup honey
2 quince, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 4-inch rosemary sprig
2 3- to 4-inch cinnamon sticks, broken
1 star anise
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Combine the cider, wine, honey, quince, rosemary, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and lemon zest in a large saucepan and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. Strain the mulled cider and discard the solids. Serve warm.