Winter Cocktails: Mulled Wine & Cider (Glögg, Glühwein, & Wassail)
Opening the door to a discussion of mulled wine would result in hours of debate and anecdote, (made all the more difficult if simultaneously consuming said wine). This can be proved simply by listing even a handful of its names and variations: Glühwein, Glögg/Gløgg, vin chaud, greyano vino, izvar, Glintwein, Caribou, Hippocras, Negus, and Feuerzangenbowle. It can have different bases, such as port (called a “Smoking Bishop”), ginger wine and raisins (“Smoking Beadle”), or Champagne (“Smoking Cardinal”). Then there are the mulled ciders, ales, and meads, and the close relation to punch, bringing with it further wealth of history and variation. The number of cultures with a version of this theme is mind-boggling, but the purpose behind the practice is consistently the same.
Before proper storage techniques were invented, food and drink spoiled fairly quickly. One had to be creative to keep food fresh longer or at least to make stale and spoiling food more tolerable (practices that also masked poor-quality products). In Roman times, spices and sugars or honey were added to wines to delay spoilage or mask flavours, typically a practice done in the early winter once the wines harvested in early fall began to stale. This practice dates back to Greece as well, where a wine, spice, and honey mixture called “Hippocras” or “Hypocrace” (supposedly created by Hippocrates as a health tonic) was used and later became popular England for the next thousand years. Other cultures figured out similar strategies for wines and juices and as years passed practical process became tradition.
In Southern England where apples and cider (fermented fruit juice) were an important part of agriculture, a yearly autumn ritual was created sometime before the 11th century called “Wassailing.” This was a ceremony celebrated in early January involving drink and song that blessed the health of the trees, scared away evil spirits, and ensured a good harvest for the following autumn. The drink for this ceremony was aptly named the “Wassail,” a heated ale (and later cider) mulled with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and sometimes fruit, brandy, sherry, and even bread.
By the 18th century, most cultures had a solid tradition and recipe for mulled wine. The differences in alcohol, spice, and garnish are very important to those who carry the tradition. At Pourhouse, our mulled wine recipe is inspired by Nordic traditions dating back to the early 17th century. For this reason, we call it by its Scandinavian name, “Glögg” (pronounced “gloo-ig”). Red wine, port, and sugar are mulled for hours with our secret recipe of spices and citrus peel before being spiked with brandy, garnished with both toasted almonds and akvavit-soaked raisins, and served hot. It’s the perfect winter warmer – but won’t be around much longer. Make sure you get one before it’s gone.