The custom of adding spices to heated wine is an ancient tradition and almost every culture has its favorite blend. The practice can be traced back to medieval Europe when spices were added to bad wine to cover the taste and preserve the wine.
It’s known as Gløg in Sweden, Glühwein in Germany, vin chaud in France, vin brulé (burnt wine) in Italy, and grzane wino (heated wine) in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Whichever name it goes by, the key elements are always cinnamon, cloves and citrus.
Photo courtesy of Odile Bazin You won’t find one specific Canadian mulled wine, but rather a mixture of flavors depending on the cultural roots of the region. In Vancouver, British Columbia and Banff, Alberta, with its strong connection to England, you’ll find mulled wine done up with nutmeg, Cardomom and bay leaves. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, you’re more likely to find your mulled wine with an Eastern European dash of black pepper and honey, or served as Swedish Gløg with a splash of vodka and handful or raisins.
Toronto’s large Croatian and Serbian community serves its kuhano vino (cooked wine) with nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, sugar and orange zest. Southern Ontario's German roots are seen in the blueberry mulled wine and the rum-soaked sugar cones set ablaze and left to drip into the simmering wine.
In Montréal, Québec City and the Maritimes, with its Gaelic and French roots, the mulled wine is often sweetened with sugar and nutmeg. Québécois Caribou is red wine, port or sherry combined with either whisky, brandy or rum and then sweetened with maple syrup. The name comes from a drink made from caribou blood and whisky invented by hunters and loggers working in the frigid northern climates. Québéckers starts drinking Caribou at Christmas and continue serving it throughout the winter (it the official drink of the Québec City Winter Carnival) until spring thaw.
Delicious, aromoatic, mulled wine is the perfect drink for the holiday season. And in the words of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, “This is dead easy to make and tastes like Christmas in a glass.”