Mulled ‘Wine’ (alcohol-free)

Makes 4-5 glasses

Vegan; no grains, dairy or cane sugar

Hot, spiced fragrant mulled wine, cider or juice is a welcoming treat when entertaining on cool evenings. It’s fun, innovative and healthy to offer guests the option of a special drink without alcohol. If you use this recipe, you can partake anytime.

There are many versions of mulled wine, but commonly it includes red wine, spices and citrus. To “mull” is to heat and spice. Cheap wine was disguised in this way by the ancient Greeks and Romans. It re-established itself as fashionable in the 70s, perhaps served before fondue by an open fire. Bell-bottoms obligatory.

Nutritionally, spices are among the top performers for many micro-nutrients and anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar; cloves are a good source of manganese (enzyme and heart support), calcium and magnesium; star anise is high in iron; orange peel contains more flavonoids than the flesh, such as hesperidin which can help lower high blood pressure; raisins have boron –  low levels in New Zealand soils are linked to weak joints and bones.

This drink can be served hot or cold, to adults or children. Its flavour improves with sitting; it can chilled or frozen. Some recipes for alcohol-free versions use only juice or part water as the liquid. This is far too sweet and doesn’t show understanding of how to successfully exchange ingredients. Dark juice will give a wine-like appearance, but is much sweeter. This recipe includes some black leaf tea, or green tea. The tannin in these helps to duplicate the tannin in wine for a grunty undercurrent to offset the natural sugars. Several juice combinations are possible. I chose an apple and black currant combination, which has less sweetness and a more red wine appearance than say, purple grape juice. Whatever you choose, look for a juice with no artificial additives or added sugar (check the Ingredient list for sugar, not the Nutrition Panel, as all plants contain natural sugars).

4 cups Apple Black Currant Juice
2 cups strong black leaf tea or green tea (steep 5 minutes or more)
long strips of peel from 1 large orange
2 Tbsp raisins
6 whole cloves
3 star anise
1 large or 2 medium cinnamon sticks, broken into thirds

Place all ingredients into a medium saucepan. Cover and bring just to the boil. Immediately turn to simmer for 20 minutes. This can sit and steep longer if you wish.

When serving, or for storage, pour through a strainer and discard all but the raisins. Put a heaped teaspoon of raisins in each wine glass or mug.

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