Holiday party season is in full swing, and if your calendar looks anything like mine, you will be spending nearly as many waking hours in the kitchen making side dishes and desserts for various parties as you will be spending at the parties themselves. And, of course, the number of hours spent in the kitchen will increase exponentially if you are hosting a party of your own. All of this time spent in the kitchen often has us at a loss for energy and creativity when it comes time to make crowd pleasing drinks that don’t keep the host “behind the bar” all night, but it shouldn’t. Don’t spend your next party mixing drinks instead of mingling. Mulled wine, for example, takes only minutes of hands on preparation time and then can be left alone for guests to serve up for themselves. This is exactly why I plan on whipping up a large batch as part of my contribution to an upcoming holiday dinner party my friend is hosting in a couple of weeks. In addition to the requested canned good for the local food pantry and the side dish I signed up to bring, I plan on surprising everyone (ok, so it probably isn’t much of a surprise anymore) with warm spiced red wine to help keep everyone warm in these freezing temperatures.
I created this recipe using a bottle of inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon and middle-shelf bourbon. I only used one bottle since I was not working with an existing recipe, but developing my own – no reason to waste wine if it didn’t work. The final result can easily be doubled or even tripled (I will probably triple it…) depending on your needs. Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge and enjoyed the next day after a brief time in the microwave. I would recommend making multiple spice pouches – one for every bottle of wine instead of one large one, to make sure the spices fully infuse into the wine. If space on your stove top is scarce, you could make all of this in a Crockpot (which is what I plan on doing) with some minor adjustments:
- Heat the orange juice and whiskey using the Crockpot’s highest setting before adding the sugar.
- Reduce heat to the lowest setting before adding the wine, cover with the lid and let simmer an extra 30 minutes or so to make sure the flavors fully develop.
- Make sure to test it before you serve it 😉
1 cinnamon stick
3 1/2-inch cubes fresh ginger
20 whole allspice berries
peel of 1 large orange
peel of 1/4 of a lemon
juice from 3 large oranges
2 ounces Kentucky bourbon
1/4 cup raw sugar
1 750-mL bottles dry red wine
1) Using a sharp paring knife, carefully peel away as much of the orange peel as you can, leaving behind the bitter white pith. Do the same with the lemon, although you will only need one small strip of the peel.
2) Place citrus peels, cinnamon stick, allspice, and ginger in the center of a square of cheese cloth. Bring the edges of the cheese cloth together and secure with a piece of string or tie the opposite corners of the cheese cloth together to create a small pouch.
3) Pour the orange juice and whiskey into a large sauce pan and drop the spice pouch into the juice. Heat over medium-high heat until it begins to boil. Add raw sugar and stir to dissolve.
4) Pour wine into sauce pan and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes to an hour before serving.
5) Ladle into heat proof glasses, garnish with orange slices or cinnamon sticks if desired, and serve.