I am determined to make this winter about all things exciting and not lament for the sparkly happy times of Christmas. Early church figureheads did not think things through when they chose the winter festival dates. Yes the shortest day may have been and gone but it definitely gets colder through January and February.
Anyway, let's celebrate! Britain's adoption of all things Scandinavian means that we can combat SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) with hygge. I have family in Sweden and these are people who grew up in one of the hottest parts of the world, yet they love Sweden. Cold and all. So they must be doing something right over there. But come across a cold, drizzly day in England and morale slumps, eyelids droop and moods darken to match the weather. Sounds fun, doesn't it?
No. No it doesn't. It is beyond not fun. So let me ask you this? Do you drink mug after mug of tea or coffee during the day because it's the only thing that will keep you warm and hot chocolate is far too much of an indulgence? Trust me, I've been there. But the next time you have a party or gathering of friends, family or just random people you like to hang out with, why not offer a nice toasty glass of mulled wine.
It's cold, so it's still acceptable to drink it. Don't give me this, "mulled wine is just for Christmas" nonsense. It is alcoholic, so I advise you to drink it responsibly. BUT, how hygge is it to sit around with a bunch of good friends, chatting or playing cards or even having a meal together with a glass of warm mulled wine - or vin brûlée as the Italians call it. It works perfectly as a winter aperitivo and is spicy enough to make it that little bit more special.
The recipe below is for one bottle of wine. If you are using more than one (which is likely), then adjust the other ingredients accordingly. Also, people always think that you can't use a nice wine for mulling. You can use whatever wine you like. Obviously the nicer the bottle, the nicer the end product.
Spiced Mulled Wine
1 bottle red wine
200ml cloudy apple juice
1 shot rhubarb liqueur or Cointreau
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g caster sugar
1 large cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1/2 large orange, cut into chunks
Pour all the liquids into a saucepan big enough. Add the sugar and stir with a whisk until it's mostly dissolved. Then turn the hob on. Add the spices and orange pieces and let the wine heat up, stirring every so often to meld all the flavours.
Don't let the wine boil because you'll get a bitter burnt sugar taste. Just keep the heat gradual and heat the wine up gently. When it gets hot enough that it won't burn you but also won't cool down immediately, serve up.
You can also make it in advance and then reheat it when your guests arrive. I do this frequently. Again, make sure it doesn't boil!