Mulled Wine (or Cider)
A traditional cozy warm drink for winter.
- A bottle of red wine — to your taste, but not expensive — or replace this with a quart of traditional apple cider, or home-brewed hard cider.
- An orange.
- A handful of fresh cranberries, blackberries, or similar if available (optional garnish).
- Mulling spices: you can use an off-the-shelf mix of mulling spices, or pick out individual whole spices from your pantry — perhaps 6 cloves, 6 allspice berries, 3 star anise, 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 cardamom pods, maybe a couple of thin slices of ginger; feel free to substitute.
- Honey — 1/4 cup or to taste (or similar quantity of brown sugar, or maple syrup).
- Brandy — 1/4 cup or to taste.
Cut through the orange to produce a handful of thin slices through the widest part, then cut those rounds in half and reserve for garnish.
With the two ends of the orange, use a zester or sharp vegetable peeler to remove the outermost orange part of the rind, while avoiding the bitter white pith — then juice the inner portions.
Place a small saucepan over medium heat and add the whole dry spices to the pot and allow them to toast for a minute until they become fragrant.
Add the orange juice, zest, and honey and stir to form a syrup.
Add the wine and keep an eye on it as it heats up — you want it hot enough that it’s almost steaming, but you do not want it to simmer or boil. (The alcohol will boil off very quickly if you bring it to a full simmer.)
With the heat on low, keep warm (but not boiling!) for at least 30 minutes. (If needed, you can park it on the back of the stove for several hours with the heat off and the lid on, then warm it back up again to serve.)
When ready to serve, you could pour everything through a strainer while transferring it to a pitcher in order to remove the spices to avoid any cloves winding up in a cup. Alternately, leave the spices in place and just be careful with the dregs, or use a ladle while serving to ensure that nobody ends up with too many cloves in their glass.
Toss in the orange slices and berries.
Add a quarter cup of brandy — or double that for folks with stronger tastes — or in a crowd with mixed preferences, leave the brandy on the side and allow people to spike their drinks individually.