Monday, December 24, 2012

The Mulled Wine

The Mulled Wine

The old ticking clock in the bookcase tells me I have a few minutes.  One last check through the rooms of the cottage.  Yes, all the pillows plumped, all the candles lit.  Cakes and chocolates, cheese and grapes sit on crystal platters amongst lilies and roses, red berries and branches of fir.  Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols plays softly in the background.  Christmas in every corner of the house.  I curl up in a favourite chair to await the arrival of my guests and hear a raw December wind swirling round past the windows in sharp gusts that make the wind chimes sing carols of their own and just as I’m lost in a reverie of other Christmases, other songs, I hear them.  Car doors slamming, laughing voices coming up the walk.  I open the door to smiling, cold weather faces.

A funny thing happens at The House of Edward with every party I give.  I lose complete control of my guests.  I greet them warmly, I take their coats, and before I turn around, they’re off.  I find some in the library, some in the snug.  A few are staring at the night sky painted on the guest room ceiling whilst one has found the old porter’s chair in my bedroom and is now deep inside its tufted leather with his feet propped up on the star-shaped ottoman.  There is laughter coming from the living room where a few are gathered round the bird tree.  Oohs and ahhs emanate from the corner of the bedroom where the tree with the collection of glass grapes sparkles midst the fairy lights and tartan ribbons.   The large tree by the fireplace, overladen with trinkets of every shape and size is surrounded by young and old as they point out each bauble to one another.  I once found one old gentleman in a paisley chair looking at pop-up books.

And then, just as everyone has scattered to the four corners of the cottage, the back door flies open, letting in a rush of arctic air and two furry, cold-nosed sheepdogs.  Edward and Apple, who love parties more than life, burst through to vociferous greetings from all.  The stars of the evening, they make the rounds to every delighted guest, welcoming each one with their own unique brand of honest hospitality, and just like that, as happens every time, I have lost all control of my party.

Sometimes I think of galas thrown by the likes of Brooke Astor or Pamela Harriman.  Try as I might, I cannot imagine the same scene occurring at one of their fabled gatherings.  I see place cards and formality, muffled conversation and polite, practiced smiles.  Not the raucous laughter I now hear coming from somewhere in the vicinity of my office.  Not the happy bark I just heard bursting from my bedroom.  Ah well, I think, as I stand all alone in the kitchen, people seem to be having a whale of a time. 

 But I do have a secret weapon of sorts that never falls to round them all up in short order.  Removing the lid of the fat, red pot simmering on the stove, I began to ladle out my holiday mulled wine into glass mugs.  The fragrance of star anise and clove, cinnamon, apple, and red, red wine begins to drift through the kitchen and down every hallway and, sure enough, here they all come... one by one, two by two, into the kitchen for a mug of their own.  I’m telling you, this mulled wine does it every time, though I cannot take credit for the recipe.... it’s from the always reliable Ina Garten and I highly recommend it for this weekend.  Keep a pot on the stove and for goodness sakes, make enough!  You’ll want some just for you when everyone has left.

Mulled Wine

8 Cups Apple Cider
2 (750-ml) bottles good red wine, preferably Cabernet Sauvignon
1/2 Cup Honey
4 Cinnamon Sticks
2 Oranges, zested and juiced
8 Whole Cloves
6 Star Anise
Oranges, peeled for garnish (I sometimes use Clementines for this)

Combine the cider, wine, honey, cinnamon sticks, zest, juice, cloves and star anise in large pot.  Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or so.  Pour into mugs and add an orange peel to each and serve.


  1. Cause of you, I ate Fudge all ALL day.
    Now, I see, I have to go back to Kroger
    to prep this.... Sounds too good!
    Miss Terry, you are detriment to my waistline!

  2. Pamela,

    Merry Christmas! I would love to be at one of your parties, it sounds wonderful. A mug of this delicious mulled wine in on my list for the weekend. I have Ina's recipe.

    Enjoy the spirit of the season! Elizabeth

  3. What a wonderful party it must have been!

  4. I'm in England for this season Pamela so two nights ago we went thru the village a-wassailing (singing carols). Each house offered us a little something plus some lovely, spicy mulled wine. It was chilly but no one cared. :)

  5. Oh Yum! I want to be invited to your winter party!!!

  6. you never knew i was there!
    i was in a cozy corner by the chair and the old gentleman reading a popup book.
    i was kissed soundly by both edward and apple. that was my gift for the season! i took my leave after 3 mugs of the magical wine.
    i love your parties!
    if only in my dreams!
    tammy j

  7. Dear Pamela,
    Mulled wine is the perfect aroma at Christmas......we have a pot on the stove and I wouldn't care if it didn't get drunk......I would have it just for the beautiful smell !!...... although it all seems to disappear !!!!
    Wishing you, the Songwriter, Edward, Apple and your friends and family a wonderful Christmas.......enjoy every minute. Thank you so much for another year of blogging friendship. Much love. XXXX

  8. Your party sounds like one of dreams: designed for guests and loved ones, not for society. I pretend I'm there; having a wonderful time!

  9. I'm not a party person (abashed introvert) but I think I'd like your Christmas party - I just might be hiding out with Edward or Apple in the library, or perhaps the snug. I'm not quite sure what a snug is. I'm envisioning built-in benches enclosed somehow with extended wings or perhaps a curtain. Is it a breakfast nook? A window seat? An inglenook? Do tell. Small, semi-enclosed spaces are magical and I've always wanted one. As for mulled wine, I've often done the cider, but haven't ventured to adding the wine. If I was having a large gathering at my house, I'd definitely put this on the menu.

  10. Wonderful! I'm writing down this recipe!!!!

  11. Pamela,
    That recipe sounds wonderful, especially with the cold of winter here at last.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours. I always enjoy your posts.

  12. Dear Pamela
    I wish you a very Merry Christmas filled with lots of joy and warmth!
    Big Christmas hug from Lene

  13. How perfectly delightful! You are the Goddess of Hospitality, my dear!

  14. Merry Christmas with much love and many blessings

    Love Jeanne

  15. Merry Christmas, Pamela.

    And to your little dogs too. :)


  16. Merry Christmas from across the pond Pamela.
    Wet, as in very wet, so the boots are coming in useful, and I did buy a sweet purple wool cloche hat for the wind and damp - didn't need another really but it spoke to me!

    England = Home - Christmas is great and I'm so glad I came over this year.

    Have a wonderful time - and your parties sound amazing.

    Hugs to you all - Mary

  17. I can just about smell the fragrance of your mulled wine drifting the many miles between there and here and feel the warm, welcoming glow of your party, Pamela. What is it about pop-up books that brings out the childlike wonder? I love them, myself. Thank you for letting this tired but contend midwesterner peek into your party.
    Merry, merry!

  18. What a lovely post! I felt as if I was there in your cottage - in the library possibly, or the porter's chair in your bedroom. And long after you have gone to bed, I will be sitting with a glass of mulled wine, admiring every bauble on your tree in the silent house.
    Thank you!


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