I’ve always been a wine person. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve come to appreciate a good beer. The first beer given to me in college was called Natural Light or more commonly, Natty Light. Not high quality brew. On our trip around Europe, we had a few happy hours in which I came to love Waterloo and Edelweiss beers. As good as they are, I still gravitate to wine. I could give you a hundred reasons why grape fermentation is superior to wheat that I’m not sure would be true. The truth is I just like it more. Pretty simple.
Around the holidays though, it’s nice to have festive drinks. Drinks that you remember and look forward to. I had mulled wine in Prague when I was out for dinner with Matt near the Charles Bridge. We had decided that we ought to try beef goulash, a traditional Czech meal.
Looking around Prague we saw two options: beef goulash in a bread bowl and beef (boeuf) goulash with dumplings. We were so excited to get a bread bowl that we went from café to café to find just the right spot to spend our evening in Prague. Every time we found a café with goulash in bread bowls, it smelled of a tourist trap. Empty, a man begging us to come inside. That was how we ended up with the worst meal on our trip in Brussels. We decided that perhaps the better restaurants serve goulash with dumplings.
After consideration of probably fifteen cafes, we were tired and hungry but determined to not let those factors deter us from finding a proper goulash. Matt was a champion, walking several miles on the day after he had run the Berlin Marathon. And then we found it, tucked down in a nook by the Charles Bridge. There were a few locals playing live music, and it was perfect. Of course, the goulash came with bread dumplings. When I ordered the goulash I asked for a glass of mulled wine. Served warm, tucked in my red plaid blanket they provided I wished the day would never end. And then the band went home, we bid our adieus.
The next day we headed to Vienna. But I knew that I shouldn’t say goodbye to spiced wine. Not with the holidays so near. The beauty of this recipe is that you make it at room temperature so as not to burn off the wine. It can be stored for up to one month at room temperature which I find to be absolutely incredible. In Okinawa, I can’t even leave my bread on the counter for more than a few hours before it’s stale, a few days and it’s moldy. It’s from an ancient recipe called ypocras and there was most definitely no refrigeration in their days. Make a couple of bottles, so you have plenty to share. Perfect for Thanksgiving, perfect for Christmas. Best served warm with a good friend.
- 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 Tablespoon ground mace (or ground nutmeg)
- 1½ teaspoons ground cloves
- 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bottle fruity wine such as Merlot
- Stir together in a large non reactive bowl: brown sugar, cinnamon, mace, cloves and black pepper. Add wine, stir. Let wine sit for 10-15 minutes for sugar to dissolve. Stir again and cover tightly. Wine should be left at room temperature for 1-2 days. Wine may be stirred occasionally to ensure that sugar is dissolved.
- Strain wine through a nut bag or cheesecloth into a bowl to remove spices. Clean bag or cheesecloth and strain one further time. Pour wine into a clean, airtight container such as the original wine bottle. Wine may be stored at room temperature for up to one month.
- Serve warm with orange slices and cinnamon sticks.