It’s freezing in Victoria this week – frosts overnight and bone-chilling winds at the tram stop. Being Aussies we’re total wimps about it, too – European friends who’ve moved here are astounded at how woefully unprepared we are for it. Nobody knows how to drive in a frost; nobody has a proper jacket or winter shoes… nobody has a properly insulated home, so the moment your heater goes off, your home is back to freezing cold. It’s almost as if this didn’t happen to us every. single. year.
So it was kind of nice when my landlord decided he needed to come over yesterday and do some repairs – a perfect excuse to stay home all day and make a pot of this wonderful glühwein syrup, which will not only give us months of happy drinking, but made the place smell *incredible*. Throw in a pot of quince jelly, slowly turning pink on the back of the stove, and he probably thinks I’m Suzie Homemaker instead of a hot mess who’s irrationally fearful of the moment he discovers whatever my toddler has secretly destroyed recently.
Syrup is a game changer if you like mulled wine (or mulled cider, mead, or juice!). Made the ‘traditional’ way, the drink is a commitment. Get out all your ingredients, decide in advance how sweet you want it, dump a whole bottle of red on the stove, simmer carefully so that you don’t lose all that precious booze to the air… wouldn’t it be better to have a great big steaming mugful ready just minutes after you get in the front door, or put the kids to bed? Syrup is a fast and delicious short cut, and since mulled wine works famously with cheap (cough, box) red*, you can have as much as you want, whenever you like.
My method for putting it together is to start with a simple syrup. Add sugar and water to a pan in 1:1 ratio and turn the heat on. Then, go to town with additions of whatever else you like in your mulled wine. Today, I used cumquats, the rind and juice of some mandarins and oranges, some cinnamon sticks, vanilla, star anise, black pepper, and cloves, topped up with a little orange liqueur.
Simmer it for a while, let it sit for a while, strain it into bottles and, if you like, top up a bit with a complementary booze. Your house will smell amazing, and come evening all you have to do is pop a little into a mug with wine (or apple juice if you’re small), heat it up, and feel super cosy.
This would be phenomenal with many other flavour directions – apple or pear rather than citrus (or no fruit at all), cardamom, allspice, brandy instead of orange liqueur, honey instead of sugar … you could get creative with the spirit (or bitters? how about orange bitters?) or just leave it out. As long as you don’t dilute the syrup too far, it should keep indefinitely.
*Australia makes some very drinkable boxed wines. Try them again soon, and don’t make the mistake of buying the cheapest stuff, which is where undergraduate nightmares come from.