Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Bright and Luminous Mulled Wine

I so need to tell you about my Christmas tree. And yes, I am aware that we are marching towards February, and that cooks around the country are planning their V-day menus, but I am still going to do it. Because my Christmas tree is a beauty; a sleek, stylish, and elegant white beauty. Obviously it's not a real Christmas tree, it's not even an evergreen; my baby is a birch-like creature: thin, eerie and delicate, almost ethereal. It radiates positive thoughts, hope, and inspiration. It's so adorable and uplifting that I am tempted to keep it in our living room forever.

Which is exactly why we got it.

See, up until recently we had a real tree. We would put it up a couple of days before Christmas, put on the decorations -- we've accumulated so many of them over the years that we got into a habit of doing a different theme every year -- and then we would turn on the Christmas lights, light the candles on the living room table, and chin-chin, we would toast to the upcoming holiday with a mug of steaming mulled wine. A full bodied red, sweet-smelling of honey and oranges, intoxicatingly fragrant with cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla, and slightly tipsy with brandy -- just as any proper mulled wine should be.

For many years, our Christmas tree had been one pitch perfect story, albeit without a happy ending. Because once the celebration was over, once New Year was not so new anymore and the resolutions were ancient history, once the busy life took over the steering wheel and moved into a high gear, we would totally forget about our little fellow. And I mean totally. Forget. About it.

And the little fellow would sit in the apartment patiently, waiting. Waiting. Until the end of February, beginning of March, when we usually got our act together. Once, we even pushed it into April.

You do realize that this is kind of weird. Not to mention the difficulties of taking a petrified Christmas tree out of the apartment. Try to picture it: needles in the vestibule, needles in the elevator, needles in the lobby, together with a 6-foot tree-trunk in front of the building for everyone to wonder where it came from. As a result, our removal operation incorporated all the elements of a first-rate thriller, disposal of a body included. As we could not afford to be seen by our neighbors (what would YOU think of a neighbor who keeps a Christmas tree until March?), we good into a habit of doing it in wee hours, when the building was asleep, and quiet, and we had all the time in the world to get rid of the evidence, clean the crime scene, and schlep the victim two blocks away.

I had to relate the story, just in case you thought that we have a fake tree because of the environment. I mean we do, we really DO care about the planet. But I would be a world-class hypocrite not to disclose other factors in our decision.

Now that I have my new and so very sophisticated white tree -- and by the way, did I mention that it has little lights tucked inside the branches, and therefore can act as a lamp -- I am contemplating keeping it forever. I did remove the decorations though. Yesterday. We celebrated with another round of mulled wine, but because it's almost February, and because our New Year resolutions are still kind of lingering around, and they are always about being fresh and light, bright and luminous, we've adapted the tradition a bit. We now open the season with red, and close with white. Like the cycle of karma.

No more hiding. Cheers to that!

Bright and Luminous Mulled White Wine

* one 750ml bottle of white wine (ideally sp├Ątlese of off-dry Riesling, Viognier, or oaked Chardonnay)
* 3/4 cup water
* 1/2 cup sugar
* peel of one grapefruit
* 5 cardamoms
* 1/4-inch long knob of ginger, peeled and cut in half
* 1 bay leaf
* 6 cloves
* 1 tsp juniper berries
* 2-inch long vanilla bean
* 1/4 cup vodka, gin, or light rum

In a medium sized pot combine the water, sugar, grapefruit zest, ginger, cardamoms, bay leaf, juniper berries, and vanilla. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so that the liquid is barely bubbling, and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes to infuse the liquid. Taste the liquid at about 20 minutes. If you like the flavors to be stronger, continue to simmer a little bit longer.

When the liquid is ready, pour in wine and vodka. Turn the heat to medium and bring back to a gentle simmer. Simmer for about 5 more minutes. Ladle it into glasses and serve warm.

Serves 6


  1. We also have big white tree until spring. It seems that it doesn't occupy space, just looks beautiful :)

    1. ... and then you should put flowers on it to celebrate the arrival of spring. That's what I think I am going to do :)


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