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  • Writer's pictureDane

Drinks with Dane | Week 15

This week we’re going to toast in the holidays with a wonderfully mulled wine.


Happy Holidays Everyone!

The practice of flavoring wines with herbs and spices goes all the way back to the beginning of alcohol production and we’re going to go over some of that history.

Thank you for your support and please tag me @drinkswithdane on Instagram or #DrinksWithDane so I can raise a glass with you!


A Short History of Mulled Wine

At the beginning…

To start this tale, I think it's best we keep one thing in mind: For the vast majority of human history, water was deadly. The settling of people for agricultural production and alcoholic production happened around the same time. What came first, I think is still up for debate, but is really a moot point. Some of the earliest evidence of alcoholic production was found in the Neolithic site of Jiahu in the Yellow River Valley of China, dating back to ca. 7000 B.C.E.

Bimolecular archaeological analysis of the pottery jars showed that it contained a fermented beverage of rice, honey, a native grape and hawthorn berries. Alcohol was also a very important vehicle for medicine. Medical herbs were often fermented or infused into beverages. By the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 B.C.E.) there was an entire industry for the production of medicinal wines. Evidence of spiced and herbal wines are found in Egypt as well, being found in many of the tombs of the ancient kings.

The Greek doctor Hippocrates was known to prescribe wine for many ailments. In the Hippocratic Corpus, (a collection of ancient Greek works on medicine), wine is mentioned several times and is used to treat many issues. The Romans adapted mulled wine and expanded it throughout their empire, drawing on the network of exotic spices to flavor their wines. Pliny The Elder would talk about spiced and sweetened wines in his book Natural History. Recipes for a spiced wine called Conditum Paradoxum can be found in De Re Coquinaria by Apicius. These spiced and heated wines were popular throughout the Roman Empire.

During the Middle Ages, spiced and hot wines where called “Hippocras' after a conical cloth filter invented by Hippocrates to filter water which was now being used to infuse spices into hot wine. Piment (Pyment - fermented honey and grape) were mentioned by Chretien de Troyes. Recipes for piments, also called ipocras or ypocras are found in Frome of Curry and Menagier de Paris. The types of sweeteners used (sugar for the Lords and honey for the lower class) and the types of spices used became a display of wealth and status. These hot spiced wines became a tradition of the Christmas markets all over Europe since the Middle Ages.

Spiced Wines Around the World

Mulled wines generally share some common ingredients including sweetener (brown sugar, white sugar, honey), citrus (orange, lemon, or lime), cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, star anise, and cardamom.

Below is a list of variations found around the world:

Glühwein - Germany/Austria: “Smoldering” or “Glowing” wine that is named after the hot irons used to heat the wine. This is the traditional red wine and spiced wine that we think of when we talk about mulled wine. Traditionally has been enjoyed "mit Schuss" (with a shot of rum or brandy) for a more potent kick.

Alsatian Glühwein - Alsace, France: Traditionally made with local white wine, Riesling or Pinot Blanc. These white wine based Glühwein but they are not as popular as the red wine base.

Vin Chaud - France: ”Hot wine”. Cognac, Armagnac, or fruit eau-de-vie may be added along with the traditional spices.

Vinho Quente - Portugal/Brazil: Algarve oranges with Port or Madeira wine in Portugal. In Brazil it's served with Cachaca.

Glögg/Gløgg - Scandinavia: Sliced almonds and raisins along with aquavit or vodka are added to a spiced red wine base.

Caribou - Quebec: A French Canadian twist on the mulled wine; red wine, rye whiskey, and maple syrup.


Cocktail of the Week: Hibiscus Mulled Wine

Mulled wine is such a delicious Christmas beverage. The spices infusing into the warm wine perfume your entire house with Christmas cheer. This is a contemporary California take on a traditional hot Winter drink. The hibiscus is a Mexican influence from their traditional drink - jamaica. It brings beautiful ruby color in addition to floral and citrus notes and pairs wonderfully with any dry, high tannic wine.

The traditional baking spices, of course, are warm, and bring out the juiciness in the red wine and combined with the jamaica it's comforting, familiar, and still fresh and interesting.


What You’ll Need:

  • Red Wine (Cabernet, Zinfandel, or Merlot. Something with a lot of fruit and tannins)

  • Ruby Port

  • Whole Cinnamon

  • Dried Hibiscus Flowers (Jamaica)

  • Demerara Sugar

  • Whole Star Anise

  • Whole Clove

  • Whole Nutmeg

  • Two Oranges

  • A Large Pot

  • Peeler

  • Microplane or Grater

  • Fine Strainer


Hibiscus Mulled Wine

1 bottle red wine

1 cup ruby port

4 whole cinnamon sticks

¼ heaping cup of dried hibiscus flowers

⅔ cup Demerara sugar

2 whole star anise

20 whole clove

Generous grating of fresh nutmeg (about a teaspoon)

Peels of two oranges

Peeled oranges cut into slices for garnish

Combine all ingredients into a large pot. On a medium high heat bring to a low simmer. Make sure not to bring to a full boil as alcohol is boiling off. Once at a slight simmer, turn to a low heat and cover for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, strain out used spices and serve immediately in preheated cups. Garnish with orange slices studded with whole cloves. Salute!

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