Bundled to the brim on a December night in Paris, I'm perusing the small marché de Noël in Montmartre, a paper cup of vin chaud in hand, the crisp night air heavy with the smell of roasted chestnuts and sugary crêpes. That's the vibe; here's the recipe:
- 1 bottle (750ml) of red wine (Any medium bodied fruit-forward wine like grenache, merlot, gamay or Cabernet Sauvignon will work.)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar OR 1/4 cup mild honey (this is really up to your taste)
- 1-2 oranges
- 1 lemon
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 3 cloves
- 3 star anise pods
- 2 cardamom pods
- fresh ginger to taste
- 1/4 cup brandy or an eau de vie like Poire William (optional, but we find it adds a nice kick)
- Orange or lemon peel for garnish (optional)
Begin by washing and drying the orange and lemon. Then, use a vegetable peeler to peel thin strips of zest from the orange and lemon. Be cautious not to peel the white pith, which can be bitter.
In a large saucepan, pour the red wine and add the sugar or honey. Warm it over low to medium heat while stirring occasionally, ensuring the sugar completely dissolves. Be careful not to boil the wine; you want to gently simmer.
Add all citrus and spices to wine, bring to simmer and turn off. Let mull for 15-20 minutes.
If you'd like to give your vin chaud an extra kick, stir in the brandy or eau de vie.
Ladle the vin chaud into heatproof glasses or mugs. You can garnish each serving with a twist of orange or lemon peel for an additional touch of fragrance and presentation.