Jeff Flowers on January 8, 2014 0 Comments A sweet, spicy glass of mulled wine on a blustery winter day instantly warms the room and tantalizes the senses. The drink has a history as rich as its tastes. For centuries, the upper crust of society drank mulled wine to demonstrate their ability to add desirable and expensive spices and sugar to wine rather than reserve them strictly for the preparation of meals. Throughout the years, mulled wine has become synonymous with the arrival of cold weather. The fragrant aroma and syrupy warmth of the drink going down the throat make drinkers feel cozy. As deceivingly simple as the drink seems, making good mulled wine for the winter requires both finesse and patience. Here are our favorite tips for making the best mulled wine in the comfort of your home. 1. Use the Right Wine When making mulled wine for the winter, it’s crucial that you use the right wine. Wine is the base of the drink, therefore the type and quality of wine you use will strongly affect the taste. Although expensive wine is the way to go if you want to impress, inexpensive dry red table wine actually makes a pretty good mulled wine. An inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon or a Burgundy also makes a good choice. We would recommend that you steer clear of strong flavored wines, such as Merlot. It’s not uncommon for wine specialty stores to feature mulled wine displays with recommended wines during the winter months. If your local wine store does not, ask a staff member to help you choose the right wine. Staff members are specially trained to have knowledge of the subtle differences and bouquets of different types of wines. These variations affect the taste, amount and type of spice combination that you use. Buy at least three bottles, one for tasting while choosing your spices and two for making a standard batch of mulled wine. 2. Choose Your Mulled Wine Spices Carefully Although cinnamon and nutmeg are the most common spices used today, original mulled wine had many more spices. Keep in mind that mulled wine was a way for the wealthy to show off, so they tended to throw in whatever spices they came across. The rarer, more expensive and more exotic the origin, the better. When you select spices for your mulled wine, you should consider the possible flavor combinations that may come as a result. Experiment with combinations that include the following spices: pepper, ginger, cloves, thyme, lavender, star anise, basil and cardamom. Do not worry about getting fresh herbs and spices. Older recipes call for the spices to be ground before mixing with the wine. Once you gather a number of spices, taste them. Put several different combinations on a plate. Keep notes about what spices are in each mixture, and then pour yourself a glass of the type of wine you intend to use for your mulled wine. Alternate dipping your finger into each of the spice combinations, placing them on your tongue, and then sipping the wine until you find the winner. Eat a cracker to clean your pallet between sips and tastes. 3. Start Off With a Wine Syrup Base Most traditional recipes instruct mulled wine makers to begin by boiling spices in water with sugar to make a simple syrup. Using water as the base for your syrup does bring out flavors; however, water also detracts from the intensity of the flavor. A syrup base using the wine you select makes the best mulled wine and does not compromise the consistency or taste of the wine. To make a syrup base for mulled wine, add just enough of the wine you select to mix with 5 ounces to 6 ounces of sugar, your selected herb-and-spice combination, and about 2 tablespoons each of lemon and orange juice. If you want more intense fruit flavor, add a small amount of the rind. Warm the mixture over low heat while stirring constantly until the sugar melts, and the mixture begins to boil. Turn up the heat, and allow the mixture to continue boiling until it thickens. When your syrup thickens, add your wine. Turn the heat down to a very low temperature, and allow the mulled wine to simmer for at least 15 minutes. For more of a sangria-type mulled wine, add fruit at this stage as well. Once the wine warms completely through and simmers enough to absorb the flavor of the spices, it is ready to serve. Making Your Own Mulled Wine Is Easy Just like if you’re making your own wine or trying out a recipe for the first time, the perfect homemade mulled wine requires a bit of patience and experimentation. It’s unlikely that your first batch is going to blow you away. Take notes throughout the process, refine it and keep trying until you get the taste you want. Although the process of making mulled wine may seem daunting at first, it’s really easy once you know what you’re doing. Just remember, each of the steps requires careful attention and selection. The second you taste the warm sweetness of this delightful winter drink, you’ll instantly feel the snow melting away.