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Mulled wine is a beverage of European origins usually made with red wine along with various mulling spices and sometimes raisins. It is served hot or warm and is alcoholic, although there are non-alcoholic versions of mulled wine. It is a traditional drink during winter, especially around Christmas and Halloween.
Wine was first recorded as spiced and heated in Rome during the 2nd century. The Romans travelled across Europe, conquering much of it and trading with the rest. The legions brought wine and viticulture with them up to the Rhine and Danube rivers and to the Scottish border, along with their recipes.
The Forme of Cury, a medieval English cookery book from 1390, which mentioned mulled wine, says: "Pur fait Ypocras …" grinding together cinnamon, ginger, galangal, cloves, long pepper, nutmeg, marjoram, cardamom and grains of paradise ("spykenard de Spayn", rosemary may be substituted). This is mixed with red wine and sugar (form and quantity unstated).
British mulled wine
Mulled wine is very popular and traditional in the United Kingdom at Christmas, and less commonly throughout winter. Mulled cider (and sometimes mulled ale, traditional yet no longer common) is also served, with a mulled apple juice as a non-alcoholic alternative.
In traditional culture
Over the years the recipe for mulled wine has evolved with the tastes and fashions of the time. One Victorian example of this is Smoking Bishop, mentioned by Charles Dickens but no longer drunk or known in contemporary culture. A more traditional recipe can be found in Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management at paragraph 1961 on page 929 to 930 of the revised edition dated 1869:
In contemporary culture
In contemporary British culture, there is no specific recipe for mulled wine and the spices involved in its recipe. It is commonly a combination of orange, lemon, cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel seed (or star anise), cloves, cardamom, and ginger. The spices may be combined and boiled in a sugar syrup before red wine is added, heated, and served. Variations include adding brandy or ginger wine. A tea bag of spices can be added to the wine, which is heated along with slices of orange as a convenient alternative to a full recipe. Mulled wine is often served in small (200ml) porcelain or glass mugs, sometimes with an orange slice garnish studded with cloves.