Winter Drinks: How to Make Warm Spiced Wine à la Game of Thrones
Oh, Game of Thrones! So bloody. So juicy. So…delicious?
Indeed. All that carnage makes a knight’s stomach growl. After the battle there’s always time for hearty rabbit stew, honey-roasted chicken, thick pumpkin soup, roast onions swimming in brown gravy followed by lemon cakes and pigeon pie.
And with all those mouth-watering dishes flows a river of inventive vintages; strongwine from Dorne, as dark as vengeance itself; dreamwine from Qarth, to wash away aches and pains; the wine of courage for the Unsullied; metallic Ghiscari white, from the ruined city es Essos; and of course, hot, spiced wine at the end of a long day in any of the seven kingdoms of Westeros.
Any Game of Thrones fan worth his salt should be able to brew a nice pot of hot spiced wine. It may surprise readers to know that this popular medieval beverage is still around today. Spiced wine, or mulled wine as it is sometimes called, can be brewed easily in the modern-day kitchen, with ingredients found in most supermarkets.
Not only does this beverage go down like a liquid hug on a cold day, it a great choice for large parties, since it’s typically made in a stock pot with several litres of wine. At Game of Thrones theme parties, it goes over better than a spiced glass of clotted mare’s milk. (Unless the guests are Dothraki, obviously).
1 bottle red wine (see below)
3 bay leaves, fresh or dried
6 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla pod, halved lengthwise
2 tbsp honey
Choosing your wine:
Across the Jade Sea there is said to be a golden vintage that makes all others taste like vinegar. Failing that, a citrusy sour red from Dorne works just as well, even better since mulled wine is typically made with red, though white is a nice variation.
Hailing from a mystical land and all, these vintages are tricky to find. Any medium-bodied red will do as a stand-in: merlot, shiraz or chianti. Cabernet-sauvignon goes nicely with meat, and adds a rice touch when served at a full-on holiday fiesta, complete with a big stuffed bird and Christmas ham.
For this batch we’re using sangiovese from Italy, which is similar to chianti.
Unless you’ve got unwaxed citrus fruits available (the ones found at the supermarket are normally dipped in wax as a preservative and to add shine), scrub your citrus fruits in a little warm water and baking soda.
Peel away large sections of skin from the clementines, lemon and lime. Place in a saucepan with honey and spices. Pour in enough wine to cover the mixture and let simmer on medium heat until the honey melts. Omit the citrus peel if brewing for guests from the north (the Old Bear considered that “the rankest form of southron heresy”). Otherwise, squeeze in some of the clementine liquid as well.
Feel free to play around with the spices. Just use whatever the Spice King has made available in the markets of Qarth. The Old Bear liked his spiced wine with raisins, dried berries and nuts. A little star anise is lovely too, but save it to use as a garnish later.
Once the honey is melted, let the mixture boil for about five minutes, until you have a nice thick syrup. This creates a flavor base for the mulled wine. It allows the spices and sugar to infuse fully with the wine. Boiling burns away the alcohol though, which is why we won’t add the rest of the bottle until later.
Hint: it’s easy enough to make a big batch of syrup and keep it in the fridge in a sterilized mason jar. This makes for quick preparation, just in case Tyrion Lannister shows up at your door unexpectedly, demanding a flagon of wine like you’re Podrick Payne or something.
Add the rest of the wine last and let it simmer as long as necessary, or until the guests arrive.
This is a good way to use up some of those cheap bottles of wine you’ve been saving for guests you don’t like. Under all those spices and honey, it’s hard to tell a $8 bottle from a $25 bottle.
For a non-alcoholic version, you can also do this with apple cider. For the best of both worlds, you can add apple cider into the initial mixture and cut down on the honey. Strong black tea is also a great addition.
This festive party drink is both cheap and delicious. It warms up the body in those cold, winter days and is sure to impress guests both young and old, Game of Thrones fan or not.
Best served in something resembling a goblet.