Tis the Season (almost!)

The holiday season is rapidly approaching and this means fun times celebrating with friends and family. And you probably don’t want to go a season without the tradition of drinking mulled wine. As festivities begin, you may be wondering how to avoid packing on those additional pounds that often come with holiday celebrations. Today, I’m going to teach you how to make a healthier mulled wine recipe so you can enjoy sipping a holiday libation without guilt.

Why we mull wine

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Mulled wine is a favorite tradition during the winter months. Ingredients vary depending on the recipe’s origin. It’s believed that this festive beverage has roots as far back as ancient Egypt. Back in the early days, spices were used to cover the flavor of spoiled food and to enhance medicinal value. People drank wine when the water was limited or of poor quality. Today people drink spiced wine as part of their holiday celebrations.

Different names of mulled wine

Just in case you’re wondering, mulled wine, which really means “to heat up and add spices” is called different names depending on the country. It was called “Negus” in Victorian English, “Glog” in Sweden, “Glogi” in Finland, “Gluhwein” in Germany and “Sangria” in Spain and later in Chile and Brazil. Non-alcoholic versions are referred to as mulled cider or “wassail”.

Traditional flavors of mulled wine

Early recipes included tasty spices with a medicinal punch such as lemon balm, pine resin, figs, coriander, mint, sage, cardamom, ginger, saffron, cloves, bitter orange, pepper and cinnamon.

Over the year’s spices have changed to include apples, raisins, nuts, lavender, nutmeg, lemon and allspice. The spiced wine was sweetened with honey typically. Sugar was only used by the wealthy in the days of “lords and ladies”. During the colder seasons mulled wine is often fortified with a stronger kick such as brandy, vodka, rum, cognac, sherry or Akvavit.

Why mulled wine brings up memories

When you think of mulled wine, you are transported back to warm fuzzy memories of laughter, singing and holiday cheer. You may wonder why you have such fond memories of mulled wine along with your favorite food during the holidays. It’s all due to something called a “smell image”.

When you have a peak emotional experience (the excitement of the holidays) combined with the aroma of food (especially highly aromatic spiced foods), it produces a smell image. Each time this smell image pops up, you will more likely crave certain foods associated with that initial emotional experience.

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How to fit mulled wine into a healthy diet

There’s no reason mulled wine shouldn’t be part of your tradition. It does however, have the potential to add unwanted empty calories to your day. In order to enjoy drinking alcohol, it’s important to take note of how much you are drinking, try to drink lower calorie beverages and drink water in between to stay hydrated.

Many of the ingredients that are part of mulled wine recipes are healthy. For instance, the spices pack a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory punch. Cinnamon can have beneficial effects on lipid, blood pressure and blood sugar markers. Cardamom, allspice and ginger help with digestion and have many health restoring properties and the citrus fruits provide added vitamin C. In the following recipe, raisins are used to sweeten the concoction.

My take on wellness and wine

Is alcohol in moderation healthy or not? This is still controversial. Some experts will tell you it’s poison while others will say it has heart protecting benefits. I believe wellness is more than just looking at chemical properties in your diet and the health of the body. Wellness involves all areas of your life including but not limited to physical health, mental health and spiritual health. Having fun, being around others and enjoying the good things in life can include a little holiday cheer and still be healthy.

A healthier mulled wine recipe

So, for my healthy mulled wine recipe, you can use any kind of wine you like. Traditionally mulled wine was made with red wine but there are many people who prefer it with a Chardonnay. You can try both and see which you prefer!

Ingredients

– 1 750ml bottle of wine
– 3 cups of water
– ¼ cup raisins
– 5 whole cloves
– 2 cinnamon sticks, plus one for each cup being served
– 2 cardamom pods
– 5 allspice berries
– 1” chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed (to release the juices)
– 2 oranges, wedged
– 1 lemon, quartered

Optional: Top each cup with 1 tsp brandy

Method

In a saucepan, boil the water with honey, cloves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom, allspice and ginger for 15 minutes.Turn down the heat to low and add the wine. Stir in the orange wedges and lemon quarters. Continue to heat for another 10-15 minutes. Pour into cider cups, add cinnamon stick as a garnish and enjoy!

Happy holidays!

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