Forget gloves, the best hand-warmer in Italy is a steaming cup of Vin Brulé.
Whilst Vin Brulé – commonly known as Mulled Wine – is a popular winter beverage around the most of the colder parts of the world, it actually dates back to the Romans.
The first reference to this hot wine treat comes from the 2nd century. The Romans had set off to all corners of the continent, taking with them a bevy of beverages, including wine and the recipe for this winter warmer.
Today, it is most commonly found in the colder northern areas of Italy. Throughout the winter months, you may find stalls set up in piazzas around the towns and cities selling Italian mulled wine from large cauldrons set up for the occasion.
Most Christmas markets in Italy will also have Vin Brulé.
Whilst the traditional mulled wine may come from Italy, it’s name comes from the French for burnt wine, “Vin Brûlé”. Funnily enough, the French don’t use this term themselves, opting instead for Vin Chaud – hot wine – for their copy of this classic.
As to the Vin Brulé recipe? Each locality in Italy will have their own variation on the exact mix of red wine heated lightly (but not boiled or the heat will cook off the alcohol), spices such as cinnamon and cloves, plus a mix of seasonal fruits.
For our favourite Vin Brulè recipe, for every 1 litre of (full-bodied, inexpensive) red wine, add in 180-200 grams of sugar, 1 orange and 1 lemon (peeled of skin and white bits), 2 sticks of cinnamon, 8-10 cloves. Put all the ingredients in a big pot, then bring it close to the boil without boiling it, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Once the sugar has dissolved, reduce the heat and serve. If you want to make it less alcoholic, bring it to the boil or if outdoors and it is safe to do so, burn off the alcohol vapours by lighting a stick of spaghetti or other long stick and placing it on the surface of the wine to light the vapours.
Discover more about Italian recipes in one of our hands-on cooking classes in Florence and Cooking Classes in a Tuscan Villa.