By Mini Ribeiro
I know it is a bit too early to talk about mulled wine, but with heavy showers, I almost feel like some. Craving for that warm, spicy drink actually. Yes, it is perfect for a chilly night, but I can’t help thinking about it now.
The traditional mulled wine is hearty, full of spices and strong, far less sweet than the modern ones. I used to see it being served in erstwhile Calcutta in some Anglo-Indian homes celebrating Christmas. But somehow I never tried it. I did so in Mumbai one Christmas. It was love at first sip. There has been no looking back ever since.
It is my favourite holiday classic. It is a time honoured Christmas drink, I know, but I can enjoy it anytime in somewhat cool weather. There are many recipes of mulled wine. Each family has theirs with few variations but citrus peel and aromatic spices are must additions. Interestingly mulled wines boost immunity too. Naturally, with a plethora of spices and citrus, it is bound to. There you go. Perfect for a rainy day!
The Nordic version, known as glogg, is blended the day before to get the flavours mingling and calls for a floating garnish of raisins and blanched almond slices. In Germany, there’s an extreme ritual called Feuerzangenbowle, in which a rum-soaked sugar cone is set ablaze and drips into the simmering wine. At the glorious outdoor Prague Christmas market, I am told, you can sip svarene vino when you need it most, while shopping in the cold air. The Swedish love their glogg and gluhwein. These are delicious mulled wines, I assure you. Glogg is traditionally served in glasses and not mugs, even though it is a hot drink. Just place a spoon in the glass as you pour the hot glogg and your glass will not crack.
Fredrika Ornbrant, the Consul General of Sweden in Mumbai treated me to a lovely glogg last Christmas. She mentioned how traditionally, it was prepared from scratch in all households in Sweden, in the month of December. “But now, people are busy and have less time, so often the pre-mixed spices are purchased from stores. One only needs to add red wine and make it hot.”
One thing I love about mulled wine is you don’t even have to drink alcohol to enjoy the stuff. The aroma is half the pleasure. I generally prefer European reds, like tempranillo from Spain or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Italy, because European wines tend to be higher in acid than most wines from the new world, and heat can soften the acidity on the palate. They also tend to be lighter in colour.
I enjoy mulled wine made with red wine, orange juice, honey, lemon zest and a host of spices specially, earthy nutmeg, warm cinnamon, star anise and ginger. Ooh! Can almost get the aroma. The best part is it is easy to prepare and one can use inexpensive red wine. That is the whole idea in fact. Ensure that the mixture does not boil, but only simmers. Make sure that spices are placed in a muslin bag and not directly. Don’t sweat about spices too much. Use what has been sitting at your kitchen shelf for ages. The older the better. So give it a shot this monsoon or winter. Prepare one yourself at home. Trust me home made mulled wine is shades better than ones you may get readymade somewhere. At least I vouch for the home made version in my kitchen! I am longing for some already.
By Mini Ribeiro