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Cooking Tips

The Best Way to Drink an Inexpensive Red: Mull It.

Bonus: Your house will smell amazing.
By Published Dec. 1, 2022

As the days grow colder and shorter, its only a matter of time before snow, ice, and slush will start to appear. But the news isnt all bad: A carefully chosen recipe can be a real bright spot on a gloomy day.

Enter my one-step frosty-weather survival guide: Snuggle up with a steaming mug of mulled red wine. Heady with spices, citrus, and brandy, and only slightly sweet, this cozy warmer is sure to cure the chilly-day doldrums.

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My recipe has only a mild alcohol taste and deep—but not overwhelming—spice notes. I start with an inexpensive medium- to full-bodied red wine (there’s no need to splurge; just choose one that you enjoy drinking).

Then, for full, round flavor, I add a warming quartet of whole spices, all toasted to unlock their full potential, along with a few swaths of fresh, floral orange zest. 

Simmering the wine for a full hour ensures a deeply flavorful drink that doesnt taste raw; it also cooks off a good portion of the alcohol. Just before serving, I stir in a couple of spoonfuls of brandy for a fresh, boozy kick.  

RED WINES FOR MULLING

I tested a dozen inexpensive reds in this recipe and found that most were good candidates for mulling. That’s not to say they all tasted the same: A lot of the differences have to do with “body,” a term that can be used to broadly categorize red wines. The more body a wine has, the richer and more concentrated it tastes. 

Light reds tend to be uncomplicated, fruity, and sometimes thin-tasting. Medium-bodied reds are smooth and lush, while full-bodied reds are often described as tannic, hearty, and robust. Light wines can’t support heavy mulling spices and sugar—they taste, well, too light. 

My advice is simple: Choose an affordable medium- to full-bodied wine that you enjoy drinking on its own. Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel are all good choices.

Mulled Red Wine

Makes about 1½ quarts, serving 8

The flavor of the mulled wine deteriorates if it is simmered for longer than 1 hour. It is best served immediately after mulling but will keep fairly hot off heat, covered, for about 30 minutes. Leftover mulled wine can be reheated in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stovetop.

3 cinnamon sticks (3 inches each)

10 whole cloves

10 whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon allspice berries (about 25)

2 bottles medium- or full-bodied red wine

4 strips orange zest removed with vegetable peeler, each strip about 2 inches long by ½ inch wide, cleaned of any white pith

½ cup granulated sugar, plus up to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, to taste

2-4 tablespoons brandy

1. Toast cinnamon sticks, cloves, peppercorns, and allspice in medium heavy-bottomed nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add wine, orange zest, and ½ cup sugar; cover partially and bring to simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to low and simmer 1 hour until wine is infused; do not boil.

2. Strain wine through fine-mesh strainer; return wine to saucepan and discard spices and orange zest. Stir 2 tablespoons brandy into wine; taste and add up to 2 tablespoons more sugar and 2 tablespoons more brandy, if desired. Ladle wine into small mugs; serve immediately.

Hooked on mulled wine? Click here for my recipe for Mulled Red Wine with Raisins and Almonds, inspired by Scandinavian glögg.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.