15 December 2006

Many of us are likely occupied during the season of Advent shopping for Christmas gifts and having them shipped out to family far away in time to make the Sacred Day (a worthy penance for this penitential season); still, it's a time to become reacquainted with the confessional (if one has not seen the inside of one in some time) and taking on some extra mortifications. The forty-day feast that follows, from Christmas to the Feast of the Presentation, more than makes up for it. During the festal gathering, among the various liquid concoctions--the spiced apple cider, the rum-spiked egg nog, the punch--don't forget the mulled wine.

I was first introduced to this lovely drink one fair evening at Oxford, when I was spread out on the lawn of New College watching a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. In between the scenes of flitting fairies and sleeping donkeys, they sold it for a pound a cup. I, of course, bought several. In the cool English evening, this hot spiced wine delighted. It's drunk in Germany (Gluhwein), France (vin chaud), Italy (vin brule), Sweden (Glogg), and other European countries. I make it every Christmas now, and offer a traditional recipe here.

Spicy Mulled Wine

700 ml Red wine (1 1/4 pint)
300 ml Water ( 1/2 pint)
300 ml Orange juice ( 1/2 pint)
3 Tablespoon Caster sugar
2 Cinnamon sticks
1 Teaspoon Ground coriander
1 Teaspoon Whole cloves
150 ml Brandy ( 1/4 pint)

Makes approximately 1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints)

Place the wine, water, orange juice, sugar, two cinnamon sticks (roughly broken), coriander and cloves in a large saucepan.

Heat to just below boiling point for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the brandy.

Strain the liquid through a fine sieve, discarding the spices.

Serve in warm glasses, decorating each one with a whole cinnamon stick.

In between sips, it is recommended one gustily, lustily recite the following:

Drinking Song, On the Excellence of Burgundy Wine

My jolly fat host with your face all a-grin,
Come, open the door to us, let us come in.
A score of stout fellows who think it no sin
If they toast till they're hoarse, and drink till they spin,
Hoofed it amain
Rain or no rain,
To crack your old jokes, and your bottle to drain.

Such a warmth in the belly that nectar begets
As soon as his guts with its humour he wets,
The miser his gold, and the student his debts,
And the beggar his rags and his hunger forgets.
For there's never a wine
Like this tipple of thine
From the great hill of Nuits to the River of Rhine.

Outside you may hear the great gusts as they go
By Foy, by Duerne, and the hills of Lerraulx,
But the rain he may rain, and the wind he may blow,
If the Devil's above there's good liquor below.
So it abound,
Pass it around,
Burgundy's Burgundy all the year round.

--Hilaire Belloc