Visiting a new country, I love to experience the culture and traditions of the people who live there – when mulled wine showed up everywhere, who was I to argue! Time for savouring the flavours of Prague!
Warm thoughts and Christmas cheer were as free flowing as the svařák, otherwise known as mulled wine. It is a popular drink throughout Europe, especially in the colder countries. Mulled wine is simply wine that has been heated and spiced. During the times of the Roman Empire, these drinks were considered tonics – a healthy drink. All these years later, and I would have to say, the people of Prague are not disagreeing – at least not by judging the number of stands selling svařák on the streets, whether in a restaurant, on a cart on the street, or literally out of a hole in the wall!
Boiling the wine does burn off the alcohol but the flavour is all there! The addition of spices and orange slices and svařák became synonymous with Christmas and the streets of Prague. Cost of the wine was higher in and around the Christmas Markets (50 CZK or approx $2.50 Canadian), as you wandered further afield, the price tended to drop – even in some restaurants off the beaten track, the cost dropped to as little as 40 CZK!
Determined to keep the festive flavours alive back at home, a google search on mulled wine recipes yielded over 2 Million hits! Recommendations for making svařák include using a simple, inexpensive wine, and while either red or white wine can be used, the most common is red. Watch that you don’t boil the wine – it may separate and not taste very good. (I even found a crock pot recipe!!! That is one way to make your mulled wine – low and slow!!!) Making mulled wine takes time as your flavours need to permeate and infuse the wine. While not necessary, some add a neutral alcohol – vodka will do the trick! If you prefer to add more sweet flavour – add rum. To make it truly Czech, Becherovka could be used as well.
Recipe for a basic svařák:
- 1 liter red or white wine
- 80 grams sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 5 cloves
- Half a lemon
Heat all ingredients until hot, do not boil. Slice the lemon into the pot after, and serve.
For a fruity version:
- Half a bottle red wine
- Half a box grape juice
- 3 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ grated orange rind
Heat all ingredients, and let cool. Add sugar to taste, and juice from the orange as well, if desired. Reheat and serve.
Other cooking tips: use a stainless steel pot. If you have leftovers first strain out any fruits you may have added and then keep in the fridge to be reheated later. It should last a couple of days. Play with various recipes – sweet and spicy is a personal choice – who am I to stop the testing and experimentation process! Taste and adjust as needed.
Admiral Edward Russel’s Recipe – serves 6000!
Svařák – not only is it festive and warm but the house fills with a lovely Christmas smell. The Admiral made this version for a small gathering he hosted in Alicante, Spain in 1694 for 6000 guests. Using 600 bottles of rum, 600 bottles of brandy, 1200 bottles of malaga and several tons of boiling water; he then spiced his brew with 200 ground nutmegs, 600 pounds of sugar and the juice of 2600 lemons. His punch bowl? A marble fountain.
Savour the flavour – bottoms up!
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