Though Christmas is drawing to a close, a good mulled wine can warm your bones all winter. When I learned that Nina Koch, a regional wine representative at Vermont Wine Merchants, had perfected her own version, I asked to reprint it here and she graciously agreed.
"After combing through many different recipes and watching some pretty comical YouTube videos, I came up with a fantastic recipe for some savory and delicious mulled wine," she says. "It took a few attempts and minor adjustments, but this will have you and your guests rosy cheeked and feeling festive."
Nina introduced the recipe on her brand-new food-and-wine radio program, "The Sunday Night Crush," which airs every Sunday at 9:30 p.m. on wbkm.org. With Seven Days' end-of-the-year madness and my own holiday plans, I couldn't post it until now — but this recipe could be useful for New Year's Eve parties, and beyond. The generous Nina is happy to answer wine-related questions, too; just email her at The Crush.
"The Germans called this beverage 'Gluhwein' since it always made their cheeks glow after drinking it. Cheers!"
— Nina Koch
15 whole cloves
3 slices of crystallized ginger
10 whole peppercorns
3 large cinnamon sticks
10 kernels allspice
2-3 star anise
1 cup water
2 tablespoons of sugar or honey
1 bottle of medium-bodied red wine ($10 and under is fine. Nina uses a Zinfandel, "but anything without a lot of oak and low in tannin will work," she says.)
Spices can be adjusted to personal preference.
1 medium-size saucepan, but not aluminum, as it will react with the wine's acids
1 metal steamer basket (Nina uses this rather than straining hot wine through cheesecloth)
Stud the orange with cloves, then cut into slices and place in the steamer basket. With a sharp knife, gently cut three slices of lemon rind lengthwise, just the bright yellow outer layer — avoid the bitter white pith. Add whole spices, lemon peel and ginger to the steamer basket.
Add water and sugar or honey to a saucepan and bring to a low simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Place basket with the fruit and spices in the center of the pot, then pour in the bottle of wine, covering the spices and citrus. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Keep the heat as low as possible — the higher the heat, the more alcohol will burn off. (If you see white steam, the heat is too high.) The wine should warm up gently — if you boil it rapidly the wine will become very sour, the tannins too abrasive.
After about 20 minutes, taste the wine. If it's not sweet enough, add a touch more honey or sugar and simmer for five more minutes. Turn off burner. Gently remove the metal steamer basket with pot holders and discard the contents. Ladle the hot, mulled wine into mugs, garnish with an orange slice and cinnamon stick, and enjoy!