Mulled Wine Season Is Here

mulled wine season title

It’s holiday season, y’all! But it’s cold and it’s getting dark early and has been very windy for a couple of days now too, and these conditions call for a little extra pampering. Cozy up, light a few candles and switch your well deserved glass of vino to a steaming cup of mulled wine!

I’m hoping to make you love this drink as much as I do, which is a tall order because I like it a lot. And I really mean a lot: come the first cool-ish breeze in early September, right until I disgrace myself by still drinking it in April, I don’t stop making it and I’m here to share how it’s done.

But first, a little history. Although some say it was Hippocrates himself who invented it (and recommended as remedy for various medical conditions – I like the guy’s thinking!), the practice of mulling wine was more likely introduced by the Romans.

As a matter of fact, their reasons were rather practical. Providing the proper conditions for making wine was, well, haphazard those days, so there was a good chance wine would go stale. Trying to save it and make it enjoyable drinkable, strong spices were added to coat the vinegary, sour taste and there you go, mulled wine was born.

Greek or Roman, one thing is for sure: we did not start drinking spiced wine just yesteryear. Luckily, we also got way better at wine making since, so mulling is not to mask unpleasantness any more either. Spiced wine is here to warm and cheer you up!

Several varieties spread and become popular throughout the continent, in my country for example, hot wine was already a Christmas staple in the era of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Since this cold weather favorite is so well-known in Europe, it would be foolish to pick any recipe and call it the original. What we can safely say is that it’s done by heating wine with sugar and spices.

White, red and rose are all accepted, choose according to your preference. There is one rule you’d be wise to follow though: while you most definitely shouldn’t alter a very expensive bottle this way, quality is important. So no, you can’t make lousy wine any better by adding fragrant stuff to it. Another myth busted, sorry. The rule of thumb is to use wine you’d be willing to drink straight.

And now, adjust the sweetness to taste, and pick your spices. I mean, I’m not really being helpful here, am I? Ok, I’ll give you my secret recipe (shhh!), then some alternatives and additions you can work with to create your own personal favorite.

Oh, just one more thing! I may start a riot with this among mulled wine enthusiasts, but I do add water to the wine. I promise this won’t dilute or ruin your drink. You should know me better than that anyway!

mulling spices

Mulled White Wine

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine

1 cup (250 ml) water

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 cinnamon stick

8-10 cloves

Directions

Heat ingredients in a pot with the lid on. When liquid comes to a rolling boil, your mulled wine is ready to serve. If you’re making the drink in advance, fish spices out a few minutes after turning heat off (they tend to make the taste bitter if soaked for too long).

Mulled Red Wine

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine

1 cup (250 ml) water

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 cinnamon stick

8-10 cloves

6-8 allspice

1 star anise

Directions

Heat ingredients in a pot with the lid on. When liquid comes to a rolling boil, your mulled wine is ready to serve. If you’re making the drink in advance, fish spices out a few minutes after turning heat off (they tend to make the taste bitter if soaked for too long).

mulled red wine in mugs

Instead of simple granulated sugar, you may use brown sugar, honey, or even maple syrup to add depth to the flavor.

Fruits like citrus slices, peeled apples, pears or dried plums can also be added to the wine. Don’t discard, eat them!

Add nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, bay leaf, coriander, thyme, or chili to your wine for an unexpected twist.

Got a scraped-out vanilla pod lying around? Pop that in the pot too, there’s still plenty of flavor left in it!

Disclaimer: No animals or human beings were harmed in the making of the photographs, although the Fiance and I got quite tipsy by the end of the sesh. Everything for the audience!

Love,

Fruzsi

“Top view of spices on the table” photo featured in title image by dashu 83 / freepik

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Fröccs, the Wine Lover’s Lemonade

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It’s hot, and when it is hot here in Hungary, we drink fröccs. It translates to spritzer, a mixture of wine and cool sparkling water which was invented in the cellar of Adam Fáy precisely 174 years ago and given its name by famous poet Mihály Vörösmarty, who happened to be there at the occasion. By the late 19th century the drink become widely popular, a staple that people of all walks of life drink in copious amounts with the same enthusiasm to this day throughout Central-Europe. Therefore, fröccs is a cultural thing that’s not to be taken lightly. If you ever visit the country during summer months and want to be de rigueur at all, read on!

We took to fröccs with the fervor of religious crusaders and after a long process of experimentation and sophisticated alchemy, today about 20 variations of the drink exist based on different proportions of wine versus water. Some puritans would scoff at the idea of diluting wine, but until a more refreshing drink is found, I will stick to my fröccs thank you. In short, it’s the best prescription to beat the heat. For all its variations and new-wave popularity, fröccs is here to stay so let’s get to know each other!

First, the wine. The belief that mediocre to awful wines can be made acceptable if some fizzy water is added is an inheritance of the Socialist era and should be forgotten for good. Although sweet, full-bodied, or barrel-aged wines are usually not recommended, quality is of great importance. Fruity, aromatic, and unoaked white wines and roses work best.

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Wine Regions of Hungary

Next, the water. Chilled sparkling mineral water will do, but if you mean business and take your fröccs-drinking seriously, szikvíz or szóda (pron. soʊ’dʌ) as in common speech is the only acceptable way to go. Soda water is filtered, carbonated water in a special pressurized dispenser, known as the seltzer bottle. To describe the best temperature for both wine and water, we use the expression “cellar-cold” (8-15°C). Ice-cold water will ruin the experience.

froccs-seltzer-bottles

Onto mixing proportions. Consult the infographic below so you won’t be lost. The wine bottle and soda water bottle signs stand for 100 ml, so for example a small spritzer is made from 100 ml wine and 100 ml soda water. Sacrilege alert! If you ever encounter bottled spritzer (which I never have, but I hear such horror exists), please resist the urge! I mean, how hard can it be to mix two ingredients? Besides, the essence of fröccs-drinking is that it’s made on the spot, and everyone has a personal preference.

froccs-mixing-proportions-infographic

But how do I take the liberty to impart wisdom on such an important topic? Practice what you preach, they say. Both my parents’ families had vineyards located on the sub-Mediterranean slopes of Balaton Highlands, so we’re used to drinking our own crisp Reisling fröccs. Nowadays it’s either my uncle’s mildly fruity white cuvée from the same, mineraly terroir or a delectable rosé from the country’s southern Szekszárd or Villány wine region. Grandparents from my mother’s side also manufactured soda water in the 60’s using the crystal-clear spring water from the well at their property and transported it to local taverns on a horse-pulled carriage. Therefore, I think it is safe to say that my family’s fröccs-culture is quite advanced. 🙂

Do you feel like incorporating this simple beverage into your hot weather drinking?

Fruzsi

Vintage seltzer bottles image from Etsy