I wasn’t just adding color to the podcast to get into that fantasy tavern feel when I said I was drinking mulled wine on Episode 3. I started making it last winter and I’m in love with it. It’s also incredibly easy to make and a great way to get rid of cheap wine. Here’s what you need, and I’ll go into a bit more detail on them after.
1 bottle red wine
1/4 c honey
1/4 c vodka
1 stick cinnamon
1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla paste
Cloves (about 4-10)
Allspice berries (about 10-15)
Dried ginger or candied ginger
Caraway seeds (about 5-10)
Freshly ground nutmeg
Now, for the wine, you can go cheap but you want to go sweet, Zinfandels, Cabernet Sauvignon, or maybe even a Pinot Noir. You can go real cheap (like that $3 shit from Walmart) so long as it’s real wine and not something like Boone’s Farm. You’re not really going to be saving any money though against medium-quality wines (the $10ish stuff you get at the grocery store…I said I like to drink, not that I was refined about it) because the spices are going to equal the costs, even if you order in bulk from supply stores like I do (you can cut the vanilla bean if you want and add some vanilla extract at the end, but the flavor just won’t be as good).
So here’s how you make it. Dump everything in a pot except the vodka (and the vanilla extract if you’re using that), bring it just to a boil, then cover it and turn the fire down as low as you can get it. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes, then turn off the fire and let it sit for another 15 minutes. Strain it, add in the vodka, and put it in a thermos so it’ll stay warm.
Why add the vodka? Because after simmering, the wine is going to lose a lot of its alcohol content. It will not get rid of all of it regardless of what crappy cooking shows tell you, but it will boil off somewhere between 30 and 50% of the alcohol content. This is not a drink safe for kids. You don’t have to add the vodka, but if you don’t you’ll have to drink a whole bottle or two in order to get even a light buzz. If you’re not drinking for the effects…well then why the hell are you drinking wine in the first place when hot chocolate tastes better? (Yes, I have a recipe for that too, but it’s basically Alton Brown’s).
This is also a recipe that you can play with a lot. If I mentioned a spice that you don’t like, leave it out. I really don’t like cloves, but when I use just a few of them, it adds a lot of depth to the flavor without overwhelming it. If you like that flavor, add more. Play around with it. If you have something you like I didn’t mention, try throwing it in. And the fun part is that you can usually use the spices a second time. You can also use a small spice bag to make them easier to fish out. This is a great winter drink, and perfect for cold nights sitting by the fireplace playing games. Try it out!