There are so many amazing smells wafting around your home during the holiday season: buttery Christmas cookies, spicy gingerbread, savory latkes, yeasty bread. But there’s one more you should add to the roster if it isn’t already there – wine mellowed with cinnamon, clove and citrus, bubbling away on a back burner.

Mulled wine, the winter cousin to summer sangria, is a holiday tradition that stretches back for centuries. Legend has it that the first recipe was developed by Hippocrates – he of the doctors’ oath – as a health tonic, and it was called “Ypocras” or “Hipocris” in his honor throughout the Middle Ages. (It was probably healthy in comparison to the unsafe drinking water of the time.)

The drink is now known by different names in different countries – glögg in the Nordic countries, glühwein in Germany, vin chaud in France, wassail in the U.K. – but the basic preparation remains the same. Dump a bottle of decent wine (generally red) into a pot, and simmer it with sugar and spices until it begins
to smell festive.

I like to make mulled wine with cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, honey and a clove-studded orange peel, but other variations include everything from cardamom and candied ginger to almonds and raisins. You can also make it more or less alcoholic by adding brandy or vodka to the wine or making it with grape or cranberry juice instead of wine. Also, you should make a note of the fact that the alcohol will cook out the longer you boil it.

In the age of readily available bottled water, mulled wine might not be the health tonic that it once was, but it’s still the perfect drink to put you into the holiday spirit. Cheers, y’all!