Think of Italy, and you think of steaming-hot cups of coffee and glasses of good wine, but do you think of steaming-hot cups of wine?
Yet mulled wine, called vin brulè in Italy (literally "burned wine"), is commonplace in the winter, particularly in the northern mountains, where skiers go to try out the meters and meters of fresh powder. It's rarely advertised, but nearly any bar will have it in season, and it runs cheap, just a euro or two per cup.
Given that the weather here this weekend portends chilly, raw and rainy, it seems like a good time to discuss how to make mulled wine at home.
For this, you'll need a bottle of good, but not great, strong, red wine. A bottle of cheap local Cabernet is fine, or a fruity Merlot. If you want to go all-Italian, try to find a lower-end Valpolicella. Don't spend more than $8 on the bottle.
1 cup water
1 bottle red wine
1 small lemon
Peel of 1 tangerine or small blood orange
1 cinnamon stick, about 3 inches
1/4 cup raw or brown sugar
1/4 cup grappa or brandy
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1. Slice the lemon thinly. (If you only have normal-sized lemons, use half)
2. Place all the ingredients in a small pot and heat on low heat for a couple of hours, stirring occasionally.
3. Serve in glasses (though foam cups are commonplace in Italy) after a long walk outside.
You can also make this very efficiently in a slow cooker; just set it on low in the morning, and it should be ready by afternoon. You can substitute the wine for apple cider or even strawberry juice, but if serving to kids, leave out the grappa or brandy.