I first discovered mulled wine while living in London. The chalkboards outside nearly every tavern promised that if we came in, we’d be offered a warm glass of grog and a respite from the cold. Or, at least we’d have an excuse to drink in the afternoon. That year abroad, at our ex-pat Thanksgiving, while friends contributed their grandfather’s corn pudding recipe and their mother’s mashed potatoes, I served mulled wine. Partially, because I’m not the greatest chef – I was tasked with bringing crudités this year – but mostly, because this hot and spicy medley instantly sets the convivial mood, and it’s a cinch to prepare.
Mulled wine originated in the Medieval era at a time when the drinking water was a bit unsavory. The alcohol was believed to keep people healthy. It was also popular in Victorian England, which I reminded myself each time I stopped in a pub to order it, as I imagine the Pilgrims’ ancestors did.
Your approach to making mulled wine can be wildly unscientific, which is one of the beauties of the beverage – that and it’s a great use for those bargain bin bottles. In a large pot or saucepan, combine red wine (anything dry will do) with cardamom, cinnamon sticks, orange slices and sugar. Heat slowly and serve straight from the pot. This is a good sample recipe, but you can have fun with it – spend your prep time worrying about the less forgiving dishes. Welcome your guests with the warm wine as they enter your home, for a truly spirited Thanksgiving. Happy holidays!