Long before spirits and bitters were the norm in cocktails, mulled wine and port sangarees were commonly mixed in local watering holes. The mingling of wine, water, lemon juice, sugar, and nutmeg is credited to a British military colonel named Francis Negus. Although few details remain about how the colonel came to this particular combination in the early 18th century, legend says that he was participating in a lively political discussion and noticed that the drink was flowing too fast to benefit the argument. Negus suggested adding hot water to the wine, and the drink bearing his name was born.
Diluting anything with hot water might not be to modern tastes, but spicing up wine for holiday celebrations certainly is. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that mixing a negus-style drink or mulled wine for a festive occasion is not the time to break out that special bottle. The fusion of spices, sugar, and heating will mask the quality of superior wine.
COZY POMEGRANATE CIDER
By Bridget Albert
2 cups apple cider
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
2 sticks cinnamon
1 whole orange peel
10–15 whole cloves (pierced into orange peel)
6 oz. Grand Marnier
Cinnamon sugar for rim of mug (optional)*
Combine cider, wine, juice, cinnamon, and clove-pierced orange peel in a saucepan. Warm on low heat to about 180 degrees. Strain into mugs rimmed with cinnamon sugar and add 1 ounce of Grand Marnier. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. Serves 6.
*To make cinnamon sugar, combine 2 tablespoons of superfine sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon on a small plate. To rim the mug, moisten the rim with an orange wedge and press into sugar mixture.
By Jerry Thomas, circa 1860s
4 oz. ruby port
2 sugar cubes
1 whole clove
Sprinkle of fresh grated nutmeg
Combine ingredients and heat to about 180 degrees. Serve immediately. Garnish with lemon spiral and serve with a plate of banana-nut bread.
(Note: Sherry, Madeira, or marsala can be substituted for the port. A sweeter style of
fortified wine will require less sugar.)
By Chandra Lam
1 oz. apple brandy
1/2 oz. Navan vanilla liqueur
1 oz. Riesling
1 oz. apple cider
1 oz. blood-orange juice
1/2 oz. maple syrup
1 pod cardamom
Combine liquid ingredients in a saucepan; break the cardamom pod and add the seeds to mixture. Warm to about 180 degrees. Let mixture rest for 30 minutes, then enjoy over ice. Garnish with a star-anise pod and orange wheel or fresh apple.