Christmas time is the time for festive cocktails. I always find myself craving something warm (even though it’s hardly ever cold here) and the past few years I’ve been giving mulled wine a try. Mulled wine is an old drink- it dates way back; definitely to the Middle Ages and some sources say even to Roman times. It’s a European concoction and has traveled with European settlers around the world. In a nutshell mulled wine is red wine that is simmered with spices and sometimes sugar is added. It is served warm, and will quickly warm the body from the inside out. English versions are called mulled wine, the German version is called glow wine, and the Scandinavian version is called glogg. There is also a drink called Wassail- which is sort of related- but not the same thing. Mulling spices usually include: cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and all spice. Oranges are included as well, being a winter fruit they are the perfect addition. The inclusion of oranges also gives us a clue that (until the mid 20th century) the drink would have been considered extremely special and expensive, as oranges were expensive to import from Spain.
In Victorian England mulled wine ruled the Christmas beverage scene. Different variations were invented, including a religious named group- the Smoking Bishop, Smoking Cardinal, and so on. I chose to re-create the Smoking Bishop because I read that it made an appearance in the last paragraph of Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol”, and I had just watched the 1938 movie on Netflix. At the end of the book Scrooge and Cratchit have a happily ever after moment over a bowl of smoking bishop. The bishop part of the name has to do with the color of the drink and the smoking is because the drink is served hot- and therefore smoking. It is traditionally served in a punch bowl and ladled out into cups.
I found a lot of recipes on the internet and Pinterest and adapted the one below. It’s super easy to make- you just need to allot time for roasted the oranges.
750 ml bottle of red wine ( you can pick your fave- I used a blend from New Zealand)
750 ml bottle of port (port is a blend of red wine and brandy made in Portugal)
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 tsp of nutmeg
1/4 tsp of all spice
1/8 tsp of ground ginger
dash of cinnamon
20 whole cloves
Stud each orange with 4 cloves. In a 325 degree oven roasted the clove studded oranges for about an hour. Meanwhile combine all the other ingredients and slowly bring to a simmer on low. When the oranges are slightly browned remove them from the oven and slice in half. Let them cool for about 20 minutes as they will be very hot. You’ll notice that they turn the most beautiful ruby orange color. Juice the oranges in a bowl and run the juice through a metal sieve to remove pulp and seeds. Then add the juice to the wine mixture. Cook on low for another 10 mins of so and serve!
My mother has the most beautiful silver carafe with a little tea light warmer in the bottom so I chose to serve it in that. I used her pretty hand painted red cardinal wine glasses as well. The drink does come out sweet, so I think it would make a great dessert wine. It would also be nice to enjoy outdoors around a fire pit.
I love this picture because you can just make out the steam rising from the cup!
Merry Christmas and happy cocktailing!