Vin chaud: Hot Mulled Wine
Yes, it’s winter in Paris. And when the temperature drops, folks move inside the cafés to escape the cold, except for the fumeurs, who are remarkably hardy and seemingly immune to the chill outside, while they puff away on café terraces. We’re all bundled up, shivering on the sidewalks, lured into the cafés with chalkboards scrawled with the words, Vin chaud.
Vin chaud (hot mulled wine) is somewhat of an anomaly in a country where wine is revered, as the idea of “heated wine”, infused with spices, is a curious paradox. I always preferred my wine as it is, right from the bottle, but during the blisteringly cold winter in Paris, I discovered the appeal of the warm soothing drink, tinged with the spices of winter, and I wanted to share it with you, too.
For those folks who say that you should “always use the best wine you can afford…even for cooking,” I can’t speak for everyone, but I can’t imagine anyone in France making vin chaud with anything but inexpensive wine. Years ago a famous French chef gave me his recipe for vin de pêche (peach leaf wine), and when I asked him which wine he recommended, he said, “…use the cheapest wine you can find. Just pour that in.”
I follow his advice with mulled wine too; once you’ve heated the wine with the spices, any nuances in a fine wine would get steamed away. The French don’t love cinnamon as much as Americans do, so I left it out. Of course, it’s a free country – assuming you live in a free country – so you can spice it up as you like and there’s no problem if you want to add a cinnamon stick or a pinch of ground cinnamon to the spice mix.
To give the mulled wine a little zip, I used ginger eau-de-vie, which I love because of its spiciness. You might have trouble finding it so any eau-de-vie, such as Pear William, will work well. Another option is to use Cognac or brandy, or a pour of port, to fortify things.
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