Temperatures are dropping, and those nights where I run home, jump into my Snuggie, and heat a liter of Carlo Rossi on the stove are just around the corner! Wintertime, for me, always spells out mulled wine, and whether I'm hosting a holiday party or just making a little toddy for myself (if you know what I mean), this festive treat is so flavorful, you'd think it's only reserved for special occasions—but think again, it's easy (and inexpensive) to make, so incorporate it into your routine to unwind.
Many liken mulled wine to a hot, spiced sangria, and to achieve the best results, it's nice to have a good mix of flavors. Luckily, you can alter any base recipe to suite your (and your guests') taste. Most recipes call for one mixture or another of allspice berries, cloves, and cinnamon sticks, although nutmeg, star anise, ginger, and cardamom are also commonly used. Fruits and zest such as apple and orange are popular add-ins, and you'll find many mulled wines fortified with a bit of brandy. For your base, use a full-bodied fruity red table wine, like a burgundy or zinfandel, and leave your pricier bottles for the dinner table--the spices are strong and overpower subtle notes. Also, use only the zest and throw away the white pith of the fruit so it doesn't make your mixture too bitter. Try our delicious recipe, or, if you feel like you don't want to deal with gathering all the ingredients yourself, use the popular shortcut of prepackaged mulling spices and top it off with a couple slices fruit for garnish. And don't be afraid to get creative--in the mulled wine pictured here, I added some pomegranate seeds for a little flare.