“Port is the preferred drink of clubby English gentlemen and deros who want a quick, cheap fix. That dichotomy tells you a lot about the quality range of this fortified wine,” writes RICHARD CALVER
APRIL signals the beginning of cold spells and the invocation of the Canberra tradition of turning on the heater post-Anzac Day.
This folklore seems perfectly sensible. I recall that in 1999, when I first arrived in Canberra, the Anzac service saw those who attended frozen to the bone: it was -7C.
April is a time to dust off the heater or ensure that you have an adequate stock of firewood. And with the coming of the cold, there needs to be a change in what we imbibe.
There is a great deal of pleasure in sitting in front of an open fire with a good glass of red: that’s the stuff of romance, even without the bearskin rug and the other fantasies that they fed us in the ’70s.
But I think that the neighbours would complain that I’d set their units alight if I tried to start an open fire in my current habitation. Instead, I offer an alternative way to turn your back on the cold, potentially embrace some romance and enjoy a jolly good, old-fashioned drink.
The recipe that I’m about to proffer fills the air with wonderful redolent spice, wine and citrus: mulled wine. It is the ideal beverage to offer to your loved one on their return from the Anzac Day parade, especially as my version features rum, the traditional tot (just ask Sydneysiders).
Mull as a verb has a number of meanings, including to pontificate as you are able to do while staring intently into your mug of steaming uplift. Mull also means to heat, sweeten and flavour with spices for drinking.
The book that I have used as my guide to making drinks since my youth, “All You Need to Know About Drinks”, says this: “They (mulls) are usually diluted with water, served really hot, but laced with fortified wines, spirits or liqueur, added after the heating.”
The way that I make mulled wine differs slightly from the recipe that the book offers. The book professes to put forward the traditional recipe called the Negus, apparently named after an 18th century British military officer, Col. Francis Negus, who reputedly first came up with the famed drink. I say famed because the Bronte sisters mentioned it in “Jane Eyre” (Charlotte) and “Wuthering Heights” (Emily).
The recipe in my hippy book also differs markedly from the Negus web recipe that I found but, strangely, the web recipe adds oranges that I had decided to do independently once I’d tasted the original recipe. Here ‘tis:
Negus red wine mull
- Boil a pint of water (metric schmetric) with 2 tablespoons of sugar, cloves to taste (the recipe says 10!), slices of lemon and grated nutmeg. I add the juice of 2 oranges and the zest of one.
- Warm a bottle of red wine (I generally use merlot because it is not a varietal I enjoy) and stir in the water, spice and fruit mixture.
The original says that you add brandy or other spirit to the mixture, up to 6 fluid ounces. Then you serve. But I find that if you warm the mugs and put a slug of rum in the bottom of the receptacle the effect is better than mixing in the rum with the general slurry.
Remember that the alcohol will be absorbed more swiftly as it is warm so just one mug each means that you won’t lose your memory. Lest you forget… with two.