the twelfth day of Christmas

Here we are! A day late & a dollar short, but we’ve gotten to our last day of the Christmas countdown. It’s been a scramble. My family is safely in town; all have been showered in gifts; the house smells like candy & cinnamon & freshly-opened wine.

I couldn’t ask for a better end to the year. Joe & I have really enjoyed spending so much time with family, while at the same time calling to mind the still moments of our first, snowier Christmas as a young married couple.

After each holiday shopping trip, frustrating errand to deal with the infamous French bureaucracy or walk about town to visit the marché Noël, I tried to sneak in a pause at L’Acadamie, a café filled with old books, dark wood & two friendly Frenchmen working behind the bar. Their vin chaud was what Christmas in the Lorraine region most felt like to me, with my new husband sitting across from me reading a book or scribbling down a line for a future poem.

One of our favorite things about winter in France was vin chaud. The second the temperature dropped below freezing, all of the café’s chalkboards advertised the warm drink–served with a free side of gingerbread, livened up with some bergamot or drizzled with honey.

This year, for a Christmas celebration with Joe’s family, I decided to make my first batch of mulled wine, blending recipes & flavor combinations from my tasting experiences & various Internet goddesses. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

I use honey because it can really work in other flavors–whether you’re using clover, wild flower, jasmine, rosemary… They all have some really interesting subtleties to add to your beverage.


  • 1 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon (or your preferred dry red wine)
  • 1/4 cup of brandy or port (one adds a bit of robust warmth, to other more sweetness)
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 1 large untreated (organic, pesticide-free, whatever, but be careful as you’re plunking the rind & all in the pot) orange
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • 4 balls of whole allspice


  1. Pour the wine, honey & brandy in a medium-sized pot or crock pot. Crock pots are great here, as you can simmer things easily & keep them at a constant heat much more easily.
  2. Roll the orange on the counter to get the juices going. Cut in half & squeeze lightly over the pot of wine. Stick six whole cloves in each orange half, & drop these into the pot as well.
  3. Add the remaining spices, whole.
  4. Simmer (don’t boil, or you’ll pull out all the alcohol) for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to get all the honey broken down & blended in.
  5. Serve in mugs with a side of your favorite, lightly sugared winter treat. Be sure not to consume the whole spices. I’d say to fish them out, but then they stop adding flavor, which I’d hate to have happen. Faites comme vous voulez.

It doesn’t get better than good mulled wine. It warms from the inside out, like your favorite sweater. And all those spices & antioxidants do the body good. You’ll leave the empty mug feeling much better about the day.


About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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One Response to the twelfth day of Christmas

  1. Pingback: 12 days of Christmas are coming! | francofile

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