I often have a few ideas in mind for a specific mood that I am trying to portray going into a photo shoot. I then pick out a few props (which is always the hardest part for me, because I am so indecisive), set up my shoot, etc. I've been on a 'moody' photo kick lately, which was my initial plan for this shoot. I thought, dark and moody with some rich colors popping from the subject - some purple and burgundy, and small bit of light peaking through. But then, the sun began to shine, and that's rare for Seattle during the winter months. I have learned to work with what I am given, so I took the opportunity to use some of this light, and redirect my focus. I am extremely happy with how things turned out, and feel very fortunate that we got a piece of sunshine that day. It was so clear and beautiful that we got to see Mount Rainier from the patio, which is a special thing.
I love mulled wine this time of year. It feels like the grown-up version of hot chocolate, although I've seen some pretty good looking baileys hot chocolate recipes on Pinterest. There's something so soothing about a simmering pot of mulled wine on the stove, the smell of cinnamon and cloves - it warms my heart. I usually get my mulled wine fix at the top of Whistler mountain, in a small Swiss chalet. They have the best mushroom soup served with grilled cheese on rye bread, with a sliced pickle on the side. It's a magical experience drinking mulled wine, eating cheese, and looking out over a snowy valley of rolling mountains - that's if you manage to get a clear day.
I know some of you will disagree with me on this one, but I like my mulled wine a little less punchy. Less tart and pungent, more earthy and mellow. Something about the flavors from the red wine and spices is a recipe for heartburn. I like to mellow it out with some unsweetened apple cider and brandy. The apples and a 1/4 cup of honey adds enough sweetness for my liking. I like adding fresh oranges and limes, and adore the subtle citrus overtones that adds to the overall finish. I grabbed a bottle of Trader Joes two buck-chuck and some left-over brandy in the cupboard. You don't need to waste a nice bottle of red on this recipe, because the flavors from the spices become the main component, and you will loose some of the flavors from the wine. All in all, this recipe is very easy to make with a few simple ingredients. It's the perfect drink to enjoy after a day of skiing, relaxing with the family on Christmas day, or a warm treat for this years holiday party.
MULLED WINE RECIPE
makes 6 cups
notes: For the chopped citrus, I used a combination of oranges, tangerines, kumquats, lemons, and limes. You could also add in some apple. If you like your mulled wine extra sweet, substitute sweetened cider for unsweetened. I used a cheap bottle of red wine - merlot. Choose a wine that you like, preferably one that's not too sweet, and won't break the bank. Don't crack out the Chianti reserve that you've been saving for years, the flavors will come from the spices.
1 bottle red wine (750ml) merlot
1/4 cup brandy
3 cups unsweetened apple cider
1/4 cup honey
4 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise
1 tsp cloves
3 star anise
1 cup chopped citrus (variety)
In a large pot on low-medium heat, bring the wine, brandy, apple cider, and honey to a low boil.
Add the cinnamon, vanilla bean, cloves, and star anise. Turn down the temperature to low, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Just before serving add the chopped citrus. Mulled wine can be left on the stove to heat for many hours. It can also be stored in the fridge and reheated the next day.
I like to add a cup of mulled wine, a cinnamon stick, and some of the chopped fruit to each glass.