The Christmas ornaments decked the halls at a comedic scale, as if plucked from the set of Honey I Shrunk The Kids. Greens and lights and velvety ribbons seemed to swathe the entire city. The iconic ferris wheel glimmered with extra holiday spirit.
From their pop-up village of log cabins, Germans shared their merriment through juicy bratwursts and donuty sweets swirling on skewers to golden perfection. Some of the merrymakers kept warm by whipping around the ice rink to holiday carols. Others, like myself, turned to the warm cups of mulled wine. London knows how to celebrate the holidays!
Having journeyed to London from conservative Pennsylvania, where public displays of wine drinking only happen in conjunction with communion, I gazed at each sidewalk wine vendor like a child beholding a candy shop. I relished each cup of mulled wine as if it were my last. With a warm cup of mulled wine in my clutches, my hands warmed, my spirit warmed, and I felt inspired to roam the vibrant city long into the wintry night.
Though the street-vending of mulled wine is still a ways away (at least for us in Pennsylvania), this warm indulgence is perfect for stateside holiday gatherings. Mulled wine is easy to make, easy to serve, and the heat and spices make this a sipper. Since guests can serve themselves, it’s the perfect drink to offer with a wine and cheese style spread. Below are some of my favorite Market Street Grocery picks for hosting a small holiday gathering.
My love for baguettes is deep, but when it comes to a holiday party spread, I like to pick a heartier, more flavorful bread like this Raisin Walnut loaf from Allegro Hearth Bakery. The sweet accent of the raisins pairs perfectly with the creamy texture and sweet-tangy balance of Humbolt Fog cheese and fresh fruit. Additionally, the delicate, edible ash layer adds more visual interest than a simple brie or goat cheese would.
Balance the sweeter notes of the fruit, cheese and wine with an olive selection. The colorful Divina Organic Greek Olive Mix includes a little olive leaf, a small detail which makes for an impressive presentation.
Incorporating fresh fruits into a loose garland is a functional way to decorate your table, and if the festivities continue long into the night, you can always cut up the fruit and replenish the cheese.
For those who do not drink, I like to offer Pellegrino Sparkling Water or carbonated juices, and I keep gluten-free crackers on hand just in case. For all gatherings, but especially for holiday gatherings, I want all my guests to feel included and partake in the festivities.
Even after guests have finished their mulled wine and the party has concluded, you’re likely to have plenty of wine and spice-infused fruit still filling your crockpot. One of the secret ingredients in this Mulled Wine recipe is Chinese Five Spice, a fragrant combination of anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and ginger, so don’t let that flavorful fruit go to waste! Stay tuned, and I’ll share a recipe for leftover mulled fruit and spreading even more holiday cheer.
1 large bottle (1.5 liters) Collefrisio Red Wine
2-3 oranges, sliced, then quartered
2-3 local red apples, sliced
2 cups fresh cranberries
1-2 cups organic raisins
3-4 cinnamon sticks for mulling, extras for serving
1-2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice (or more, to taste)
Crock Pot Method
Add the ingredients to a slow cooker, and heat until the wine simmers. Reduce heat (either “low” or “keep warm” depending on your slow cooker), and let sit for about 30 minutes before serving.
Serve with some of the simmered fruit and a fresh cinnamon stick.
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, and then simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Pour into mugs with simmered fruit and fresh cinnamon sticks.