While the mulled wine was quietly simmering on my stove the other day—and the distinct, sweet smell of cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, and orange started to perfume my whole L.A. apartment—it lifted me right back to my high school winter days in Prague, and the fun memories of getting buzzed on it with my classmates.
Strolling idly through the snow-covered streets of Old Town after school, talking, smoking cigarettes, and freezing our asses off, eventually stopping at an outdoor Christmas market, where vendors would sell the steaming wine in white plastic cups.
We would stand around and drink one, maybe two, clutching it with both hands to get warm, and then keep walking again.
There would be a few more rounds later in a café, this time served in proper glass mugs, and occasionally spiked with rum.
It was addictive and affordable, and also pretty strong, but I don’t remember ever being carded—either we looked older than 18 (legal drinking age in the Czech Republic), or they considered it a first-aid remedy for the cold outside.
Mulled wine is a simple yet festive drink, and throughout Central and Northern Europe, it announces the arrival of the holidays.
In Czech it is called svařák, a slang abbreviation of svařené víno, meaning “mulled wine”; in German it is called Glühwein, which translates as “glow wine”; the Swedes drink glögg, but it has an even ratio of wine/hard liquor, and they add dried fruit and nuts to it.
The recipe is so easy, it’s embarrassing to call it a recipe.
All you’re really doing is throwing aromatics into a saucepan with wine and heating the whole thing up slowly to “mull” it. Feel free to add whole cardamom, allspice or nutmeg, too.
When I say “heating up,” I mean a very low simmer. Do not let the wine come to a full boil; otherwise, the alcohol will evaporate.
Also, please use cheap wine (you’re cooking with it after all), and keep the Château Laroque for Christmas Eve dinner.
More drinks, more Czech recipes? Here you go:
Have you heard of roasted fruit tea? This is my Czech aunt’s amazing recipe: Roasted Fruit Tea
The best Czech pastry IMO: Kolache (Koláče)
My Czech grandma used to make these pancakes for me growing up: Fluffy Bohemian Pancakes
Do you love boozy holiday hot drinks? Which one is your go-to?
Tell me in the comments.Print
My favorite Christmas drink is this mulled red wine, scented with sliced orange, cinnamon, cloves, and star anise. Merry, Merry!
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 medium orange, preferably organic (see note 1)
- 1 750-ml bottle red wine (see note 2)
- 10 whole cloves
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 3 whole star anise
- Apple slices for garnish (optional)
- Add the sugar and water to a small pot, and heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Wash the whole orange and cut it into thin slices.
- Combine the sugar water, orange, red wine, cloves, cinnamon, and star anise in a medium pot. Heat, stirring occasionally, and pressing on the orange slices to release their juices, over very low heat for 30 minutes. Do not let it come to a full boil, because the alcohol in the wine would evaporate.
- Strain the mixture through a sieve to discard spices and the orange, and ladle into glasses. Serve hot.
- Organic orange is better because you’re using the skin, and you don’t want pesticides with your wine.
- Don’t waste money on an expensive bottle of wine: The $ 3–6/bottle is perfectly fine for this.
- White wine instead of red is a great alternative. Use the same ingredients except for the cinnamon sticks, and add 3 1-inch slices of peeled, fresh ginger + 5 cardamom pods.
Keywords: mulled wine