For the final A Fork & A Flick Friday this year. I have selected It’s a Wonderful Life. What else could I have selected to cuddle up to on a cold winter Friday night in December? It’s an all-time classic that is to this day aired in movie theaters during the holidays. The 1946 Frank Capra film was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture and has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made.
It’s a Wonderful Life stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has given up his dreams in order to help others, and whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody, played by Henry Travers. Clarence helps George, a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman, by showing him all the lives he has touched and how different life in his community of Bedford Falls would be had he never been born.
There is a timeless scene in the movie where the dim, but well-meaning Clarence Odbody is at Nick’s, a place full of hard-drinking, hard-bitten cynics. George Bailey, reeling from a tough day, quickly orders a double bourbon, but his 293-year-old Mark Twain-reading guardian angel takes some time making up his mind:
“I was just thinking of a flaming rum punch. No, it’s not cold enough for that. Not nearly cold enough . . . Wait a minute . . . wait a minute . . . I got it. Mulled wine, heavy on the cinnamon and light on the cloves. Off with you, me lad, and be lively!”
– Frank Capra’s, It’s A Wonderful Life
There you have it, my inspiration for a Mulled Wine recipe in today’s post. However, that is not the only reason for this recipe, the American classic film pays ode to British tradition that goes hundreds of years back with the descriptive order of Mulled Wine by the 293 year old angel. The writers for this film in 1946 pinned it right down to every detail assuming Clarence must have indulged in Rum Punches and Mulled Wine in the 1650s. Having some heavy roots in Britain and Mulled Wine still being very popular to this day, this film and recipe blends perfectly with my dedication to holiday party food this month.
Mulled wine actually goes right back to the Ancient Greeks. Before Mulled Wine was called the drink Hippocras, which was supposedly invented by the Greek scientist and Father of Medicine, Hippocrates. The idea being that it was something of a tonic. The wine was either red or white and not necessarily hot either, but it was spiced and sweetened with honey. In Britain, the drink was very popular and there are several recipes for it. Here’s one from The Good Housewife’s Jewel by Thomas Dawson in 1596:
“To make Hypocrace
Take a gallon of white wine, sugar two pounds, of cinnamon, ginger, long pepper, mace not bruised galingall [sic]…and cloves not bruised. You must bruise every kind of spice a little and put them in an earthen pot all day. And then cast them through your bags two times or more as you see cause. And so drink it.”
By the seventeenth century, mulled wine recipes start to appear such as this eighteenth century recipe from Elizabeth Raffald in The Experienced English Housekeeper. Some were much more complicated than the recipe from the Tudor era as well as the modern day versions we make.
Mulled Wine is seriously the perfect drink to warm you up in the evening after a chilly day out in the cold. And it’s filled with delicious spices just like cider. Just about every pub in England keeps a big black cauldron of simmering wine. Some are sweeter, some are spicier, some are fruitier, but you will love them all. Here is my simple and quick recipe for Mulled Wine that you can enjoy this holiday season as you cuddle up to It’s a Wonderful Life.
1 (750 ml) bottle red wine (Tip: Try a Pomegranate Wine that creats a fruiter and more festive flavor. Pomegranate is also nostalgic of old days going back to the Ancient Greeks)
1 orange, sliced
1/4 cup honey or sugar
8 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
Combine all ingredients in a non-aluminum saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer for at least 15 minutes. Strain, and serve warm.
Add a festive straw for serving at cocktail hour.