It's late December, the kids are on their best behavior and Old Man Winter has been camped outside for a few days. It's also a time when family get-togethers can have you stressed out, your bones are chilled to the marrow and a beverage offering a bigger kick than coffee is really what you need to make all right with the world. What better way to relax than with a winter themed drink?
Mulled wine is one of the easiest drinks to make and is quite tasty when you need to warm your cockles. The recipe is very easy because there really isn't a "recipe" per se. The most important thing to do when making a mulled wine is to use a red wine that you would enjoy drinking with dinner. This isn't the time to use that swill that's been in the fridge for the last six months.
Add your bottle of wine to a pot with half a cup of orange juice. Add in some cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise or any other baking spices you have around the house, in any combinations you think taste good. Turn the heat to low and allow the spices to infuse into the wine and juice as it slowly heats up. At this point you have mulled wine. If you want to increase the kick, add some orange curacao and a splash of brandy. You don't want to add too much that you lose the flavor of the wine and spices; add just enough to give it a backbone.
Another favorite winter drink is hot chocolate. Luckily, hot chocolate is a beverage that is easy to customize with a belt of booze. Do you like orange and chocolate? Add some curacao. Enjoy chocolate and peppermint? Add some peppermint schnapps. But those seem kind of run of the mill, no? One of my favorite additions is mezcal. The earthy, smoky character of the mezcal is a natural fit with chocolate. Another favorite is the addition of my favorite liqueur in the world, Chartreuse. The herbaceousness of the Chartreuse adds an alluring flavor to hot chocolate that is hard to describe but amazing in a glass.
These are great cold weather drinks with a kick, but what are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
"Mulled wine" photo by Charlie Beldon