Glühwein (German Mulled Wine)
A number of years ago, I moved to Northern Italy just as winter was settling in. On one of the first snowy evenings, my new classmates and I gathered for a meet-and-greet party. Someone built a little fire and set a cauldron on top of it. Into the cauldron went bottles and bottles of red wine, handfuls of warm spices, and sliced citrus fruit. As the mulled wine was ladled out and we began to sip, our hands and throats warmed. And, dare I say, so did our hearts.
Feel free to switch up the spices to your liking. Cardamom pods would be terrific, as would cloves stuck into the citrus rind. You can also adjust the amount of sugar to suit the particular wine you use. Choose a bottle that's not too fancy or precious, as you'll be heating the wine and adding spices to it.
2 cinnamon sticks
1 whole star anise
8 juniper berries
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine
1 orange, thinly sliced
½ lemon, thinly sliced
In a heavy-bottomed pot, combine the cinnamon, star anise, juniper, sugar, and 1 cup water. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat down to very low, then add the wine, orange, and lemon. Keep the heat very low -- you don't want the wine to bubble at all, otherwise the alcohol will cook off -- and let the wine mull for 30 minutes.
To serve, ladle hot glühwein into glasses or mugs, leaving the whole spices behind but adding an orange slice or two to each glass.