Though wine flavored with spices has been a go-to tipple since the 1600s—it’s thought to have been an easy way to cover the flavor of bad wine—the term “mulled wine” didn’t really exist until the mid-1800s. A few decades later, Swedish mulled wine fortified with port—otherwise known as Glögg—surged in popularity. It is still a Christmas tradition today. Though it’s typically served in a mug with raisins and blanched almonds, it can also be garnished with a clove-studded orange wheel to enhance the drink’s notes of citrus and baking spice.
- In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine the wine, port and juice from the orange and lemon.
- Tie up the orange and citrus zests in a cheesecloth bundle along with the cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods and ginger. Drop into the pot.
- Add the almonds, raisins and sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer for 15 minutes until almonds are soft.
- Skim off the foam from time to time, and taste, adding sugar as necessary.
- Once 15 minutes are up, remove the cheesecloth bundle.
- Add the aquavit or brandy, and ladle into mugs.
- Garnish with clove-studded orange wheels.
The term wassail has been used in the English language for more than 1,000 years, beginning as a simple greeting to wish someone well. During the 13th century, the term "wassail bowl" described a large bowl of ale in which revelers would dip bread and cakes (a practice which gave birth to our modern use of the word "toast").