Mulled Claret for Heroes.

I am keenly devoted to warm drinks all through the winter, but on unusually blustery days like today—especially when friends come visiting—my ambitions go beyond pots of strongly steeped tea. On such days, I might make up a batch of steamy, citrusy mulled wine. And my favorite recipe for mulled wine comes from The Week-End Book.

The Week-End Book was first published in 1924 by the Nonesuch Press and has gone through multiple printings and new editions–including Duckworth Overlook’s 2006 edition, which is the copy I have. The Week-End Book is strangely practical on certain points while entertainingly silly at others—as if P.G. Wodehouse had been assigned the job of writing an etiquette and travel guide. And it’s altogether charming as it addresses the wants of both host and guest during a country house weekend. Readers find entertaining poetry, a plant guide, do-it-yourself games (for both indoor and outdoor), and even a few recipes—including how to make mulled claret.

Within The Week-End Book are found three versions of mulled claret—designated as for Boys, for Men, and for Heroes. I recommend the Heroes version, but it admittedly does pack a punch, so you might want to keep doses dainty unless you want your weekend to be a Wilderesque lost weekend.

Mulled Claret for Heroes
(adapted from The Week-End Book, 2006 ed.)

  • 3 parts claret of your choice (claret is simply the English term for wines of Bordeaux)
  • 1 part tawny port
  • 1 scant part brandy of your choice (I use calvados when I have it)
  • a pinch each of ground cinnamon, grated nutmeg, and ground cloves
  • a couple pieces of lemon peel
  • 1 tsp. or less of sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan over low heat and warm the mixture for about 10 minutes or more (until it’s steaming but not boiling), stirring a bit to dissolve the sugar.

Serve it in teacups or mugs, and add cutouts of lemon peel and cloves if you feel fancy.  Then, once all are feeling heroic, settle in for a game of Qualities (using the handy printed endpapers, guests rate themselves and each other according to various qualities like common sense or charm; fights or laughter ensue). Or bundle up and head out into the snow to play Man-Hunt, an altogether friendlier version of The Most Dangerous Game that ends in “a suitable pub.”

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