Magical mulled wine
It’s officially the holiday season, which means you’re one of two things: sad to be away from your baby cousins and the cranberry sauce and the family get-togethers, or relieved — wholly soothed, even — to be as far from the merry madness as possible. Maybe you’re hanging blinking lights all over your apartment and making decorations for your desk, or maybe you’re about to run screaming down the street with glee at the thought of missing your aunt’s bad jokes and that waterlogged stuffing (because admit it, there’s nothing good about stuffing). But no matter which side of the holiday spectrum you fall on, whether you love it or hate it, I think we can all agree that hot spicy wine is completely where it’s at.
On top of being tasty and festive, it’s also super-duper simple. All you need is a couple bottles of booze, some spices and 20 minutes to kill, and then you’ll be able to sip the night away and make your Game-of-Thronesian “hot cup of wine” dreams come true.
Please, please, please don’t feel like a fancy wine recipe needs fancy wine. In this case, it’s 100 percent okay to grab a wickedly cheap bottle o’ dry red. I would even go so far as to discourage you from buying anything that might be described as “a really beautiful garnet with a nice smoky mid-tone” as you swirl it around and take in its bouquet. You’re about to add a whole new world of flavors while also heating it up unapologetically; this is not the time for a buttery Bordeaux. As for the spices, one trip to the foreign mart should cover it, or a quickie iHerb order.
•1 small orange or tangerine
•1/4 cup sugar
•2 cinnamon sticks
•4 whole cloves
•1-2 vanilla pods, sliced lengthwise (optional, but worth it)
•2 star anise
•1 bottle of cheap red wine (the drier the better)
•1 cup port, brandy or apple cider
Peel large sections of the orange using a small paring knife and put them in your biggest pot alongside the sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, vanilla pod(s) and the juice of the rest of the orange. Add just enough wine to cover the sugar and bring it to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. You should now have a gorgeous-smelling syrup, nice and thick, that will enable you to incorporate flavor without cooking off all the alcohol in the process (that would be silly).
Once the syrup is made, lower the heat and add your anise, the rest of the wine and the port, brandy or cider. Cook on a low flame just until the wine is warm and steamy, then strain out the spices and serve.