My friends in Great Britain insist no holiday can be merry without mulled wine. But why should the Brits have all the fun?
The European tradition of mulling wine started in ancient Greece where heat and spices were used to salvage old wine once the summer’s harvest went bad. In the Middle Ages, mulled wine was credited with medicinal and aphrodisiac powers (what serf wouldn’t love to snuggle up with a hot toddy), and in Victorian England a spot of tea was added to a glass of mulled wine and dubbed “Christmas tea.”
In the United States, nearly everyone cites eggnog as our most typical holiday libation. Historically this creamy holiday tradition has beat out mulled wine due to the availability of milk and eggs from our plentiful farms, as well as the rum that’s been an affordable U.S. import from the Caribbean.
These days, however, an American love for mulled wine is heating up. “During the cooler months, we’re seeing more people mulling as the wine culture in this country grows,” explains Keith Wallace, founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia. Over the centuries, many recipes have spread throughout Europe, and now we’ve brought this easy, festive formula across the Atlantic to make this year’s holiday party sweeter and more elegant than ever.
By Kristine Gassbarre, a food writer in DuBois, Pa.