Aside from being the perfect antidote to the darkening days, mulled wine happens to be one of the easiest cocktails to make for guests: All you have to do is put all your ingredients in a pot and let it cook. Not only will it make more than enough for everyone to drink, it’ll also help your whole house smell like an autumnal wonderland by the time your guests arrive. What could be more convenient (and hygge) than that?
At this point, we’re all pretty familiar with the most basic version of mulled wine—red wine stewed with spices like cinnamon and orange slices—but there are so many ways to get creative with it. According to Victoria James, sommelier and wine director at Cote in New York City, the drink really is right for just about any occasion, depending on how you prepare it. Here’s how she likes to spice up the cold-weather classic.
For a Boozy Brunch
When you’re making mulled wine, James says you can use just about any variety or bottle of wine you like, whether that’s red, white, or rosé. But the one you’ll want to use depends on the occasion. For brunch, she says it’s better to stick with a white or rosé—something lower in tannins and ABV—so it won’t overpower what you’re eating.
If your meal is on the savory side (think: eggs and bacon), James prefers a mulled white wine with bright ingredients like grapefruit, orange and lemon peels, coriander, lemongrass, and turmeric. Just stew everything together over a low temperature for about 30 minutes and get your mugs ready. If you’re serving something sweeter, like pancakes or French toast, she suggests a mulled wine made with rosé, currants, cherries, citrus peel, and anise.
For a Cocktail Party
If you’re serving up light bites—say, a charcuterie board and an assortment of savory hors d’oeuvres—James recommends an herby red mulled wine. “A recipe I love to make is bittersweet, tastes very Mediterranean, and smells like the wild scrubland of Corsica, the South of France, and the Italian Riviera,” she says. To make it yourself, stew a bottle of Grenache, Coriscan red wine, or Sangiovese with raw honey, rosemary, bay leaves, lemon peel, and a savory amaro like Zucca Rabarbaro or Cynar for 15 minutes. Then strain and enjoy.
For a Holiday Dinner
The classic route is best for lavish suppers, James advises. “Most traditional recipes revolve around red mulled wine or vin chaud rouge,” she says. You’ll want to stew red wine with winter spices like clove, anise, coriander, cinnamon, and citrus peel for 30 minutes. The resulting drink makes a perfect complement for turkey and ham.
This recipe is also one of the easiest to whip up—most of the ingredients you need are probably already in your pantry. If you’d like, you can also toss in some apple slices, and maybe a bit of brandy or fruit liqueur if you want it boozier.
Encourage your guests to ask for refills—there’s plenty to go around.
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