Around late November or early December each year, Christmas markets start to appear in piazzas all over Italy, selling handcrafted gifts and typical holiday foods and drinks such as vin brûlé, a hot, spiced mulled wine usually served in ceramic mugs. Why a French name (literally meaning "burnt wine") is used in Italy, I'm not exactly sure, since in France mulled wine is known as vin chaud ("hot wine"). But whatever the story behind the name, it's a warming, aromatic beverage that's lovely to sip on cold winter days. It's great to make a big potful of it for a holiday party and ladle mugfuls of it out as guests arrive -- with the bonus of making your house smell wonderful and festive!
Use a full-bodied, fruity red wine for this, but do not waste a high-quality or expensive wine. Go for a cheap Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Primitivo (Zinfandel), Negroamaro or Salice Salentino. A version of vin brûlé called bisò is made in the Emilia-Romagna region with Sangiovese.
I've given you a more basic and simple recipe, but feel free to add additional spices as desired (suggestions below) and adjust the sweetener to taste.
If you want to give your vin brûlé a little extra kick, you can fortify it with 2 tablespoons of spiced rum, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, brandy, cognac, apple brandy or Calvados (a French apple brandy).
If on the other hand, you want to tone it down a bit, you can add either additional freshly squeezed orange juice or apple cider to dilute the wine a bit.
- 1/3 cup sugar or honey
- 2 tablespoons orange zest (zest of
- 4 tablespoons orange juice (juice of 1 orange (use a vegetable peeler to create the strips of zest, being careful to make them thin and avoiding the bitter white pith)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (zest of 1 lemon; same method as for the orange)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 pinch nutmeg (freshly grated)
- 1 bottle of full-bodied red wine
- 1/4-inch ginger (fresh, peeled and bruised with the back of a chef's knife)
- 1 whole star anise
- 1/2 vanilla pod
- 10 whole allspice berries
- 5 whole black peppercorns
- 1-2 bay leaves
- In a non-reactive, heavy pot (an enamel-lined Dutch oven is ideal for this because it holds heat well to keep your mulled wine warm once it's ready), mix the sugar or honey, citrus zest, orange juice, and spices.
- Heat the mixture over medium-high heat until the sugar or honey is dissolved and an aromatic syrup has formed about 4-5 minutes. Then lower the heat to low and add the wine. Bring to just a bare simmer and continue over low heat for about 15 minutes or until wine is flavorful. Be careful not to let the wine boil, which adversely affects the flavor.
- Ladle through a fine-mesh strainer into mugs or heat-resistant glasses to serve. You can garnish each mug with an orange slice or stick of cinnamon if desired. Serve steaming hot.
|Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)|
|Total Fat||1 g|
|Saturated Fat||0 g|
|Unsaturated Fat||0 g|
|Dietary Fiber||5 g|