As in many other European countries, hot spiced wine, a.k.a. mulled wine, is a tradition in Spain, especially during the holidays. Like hippocras (see my post on hippocras), this drink has ancient roots. As wine historian Hugh Johnson explains in Vintage: The Story of Wine, the practice of spicing and heating wine is as old as antiquity itself. Unlike hippocras, however, hot spiced wine can be prepared in a matter of minutes.
It's a great homey drink for a cold winter evening or a relaxed holiday party. It's nothing fancy, just wine, a little water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, a bit of orange (or lemon), and some sugar. And though hot spiced wines are typically associated with Germany and northern Europe, vino caliente really is a Spanish drink too. Just yesterday in an article about hot wine in Oppenblog (a blog affiliated with the Spanish national newspaper El País), Walter Oppenheimer suggested that hot wine is little known in Spain. Readers promptly responded with fond memories of drinking hot spiced wine in León and Castilla. In fact this recipe for hot spiced wine is based on one I found for vino caliente in the classic Spanish cookbook Manual de Cocina.
Here's how to do it. Makes two cups.
1 1/2 cups of red wine (nothing fancy: a drinkable table wine is perfect.)
1/2 cup water
a stick of cinnamon, broken
2 slices of orange, peel included, about 1/4 inch thick
2-3 tablespoons of sugar
Heat the water, orange slices, cloves, cinnamon, and sugar in a small pot. Simmer until the sugar dissolves. Add the wine. Bring the mixture back to a simmer, but don't let it boil. Pour it through a strainer into cups. (The cookbook Cocina suggests metal cups.) Serve it immediately, while it's still hot. Garnish with more orange slices and cinnamon sticks if you like.