Thirsty Writer, Libations Marketer
Toasty and tasty hot drinks for chilly winter gatherings.
The first steaming, fragrant cup of mulled wine I ever tasted was at Christmastime in Prague. Thinking about the smell of cloves and oranges transports me to that snowy night: weaving through the crowded holiday market with twinkling lights strung between lampposts, lightly falling snow and the vibrating sounds of church bells. Every few stalls, a vendor was selling the hot drink, and we happily warmed our fingers – and tummies – with each sip.
Called glühwein in Europe or glögg in Nordic countries, this traditional winter drink consists of red wine, spices, sugar, orange and spirits such as vodka or brandy. The best red wines to use for mulled wine tend to be semi-dry and full-bodied – Zinfandel, Merlot or Cabernet. The version I had in Prague contained slivered almonds and raisins plumped firm with liquid. At Cambridge newcomer Catalyst, bar manager Jason Kilgore makes a Swedish-inspired glögg using akvavit (or aquavit), a grain or potato based Scandinavian spirit that gets its distinct flavor from spices and herbs, most notably caraway. Instead of wine, he uses port and sherry along with an array of spices and dates, prunes and slivered almonds (see recipe below). Island Creek Oyster Bar in Kenmore Square makes a delicious traditional mulled wine using red wine, brandy, cinnamon sticks, allspice, cardamom, cloves, star anise, vanilla bean, orange and nutmeg. Salem’s 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar combines Merlot and cider for a flavorful fall-to-winter combination (see recipe).
A mulled drink made with cider is sometimes called a wassail, a term related to the English tradition of wassailing which can mean one of two distinct things: a house-visiting wassail is similar to caroling, or going door-to-door singing Christmas carols. An orchard-visiting wassail is when people would sing to apple trees to promote a good cider harvest for the coming year. Try Alton Brown from the Food Network’s Wassail recipe or Boston chef Ken Oringer’s (Clio, Toro, KO Prime, Earth, Uni, Coppa, La Verdad) Hot Mulled Cider from Food & Wine.
Hot toddies are another wintertime classic, dating back to the 17th century and commonly used as a remedy for illness. Even today, many still swear by a swig of toddy to tame aches and chills. Made with either a hot water or tea base with honey or sugar, fresh lemon juice and whiskey or brandy, these are easy to make to suit your taste. 88 Wharf in Milton uses Canadian Club whisky in their hearty toddy (see recipe below) while Zocalo in Boston went south of the border for a Mexican Hot Toddy using tequila, agave nectar and Mexican cinnamon (see recipe below).
Whether you’re hosting for the holidays or braving the outdoors for tailgating before the game, these mulled wines, spiked ciders and hot toddies will warm you right up!
62’s Mulled Wine
62 Restaurant & Wine Bar, 62 Wharf St., Salem, 978-744-0062; 62restaurant.com
1.5 liter bottle of Merlot
½ cup cranberry juice
½ cup cider
2 whole cloves
3 whole cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
3 whole all spice
Directions: Let all ingredients steep in a pot for approximately 30 minutes. Don’t bring to a boil (it becomes too bitter). Add lemon and /or orange zest to taste and serve with a cinnamon stick.
Catalyst, 300 Technology Sq., Cambridge, 617-576-3000; catalystrestaurant.com
1 750ml Port
4 oz Dry Sherry
4oz Sweet Vermouth
1 Cup Orange Juice
Peel of 1 Orange
2 Cinnamon Sticks
8 Pieces allspice
8 cardamon pods
1/4 inch of ginger, peeled
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Combine all ingredients, let gently simmer on the stove for an hour and then strain. To serve, add 1 oz of Aquavit to six ounces hot mulled wine.
88 Wharf, 88 Wharf Street Milton, 857-598-4826; 88wharf.com
1 oz Canadian Club whisky
1 tbsp honey
1 cup hot water
Mix ingredients together in a mug. Garnish with two lemon peels and a whole cinnamon stick
Zocalo, 35 Stanhope Street Boston, 617-456-7849
1 ½ oz Riazul Anejo Tequila
¼ oz agave nectar
1 lemon wedge
1 piece Mexican cinnamon
3-4 oz hot water
Combine all ingredients in an Irish coffee glass. Stir and let steep for one minute. Remove spices and enjoy.