WHAT DOES “MULLED” MEAN?
If you consult a dictionary, you’d think that mulled wine is one that is studied or pondered. According to Harvard University, the origin of the word “mull” to mean heated and spiced is shrouded in mystery.
Mulling spices are a blend of allspice, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg (what some Americans call “pumpkin pie spices”). The recipe varies, and star anise, cardamom and peppercorns can also be included, along with dried fruit such as apples, orange rind and raisins.
Thus, a “mulled” drink is one which has been prepared with these spices. The technique is to heat the drink with the spices and then strain them out before serving. Mulling spices may also be added to the brewing process to make spiced beer.
HOW DOES PUNCH FIT IN?
In the 17th century, merchant travelers of the British East India Company discovered the festive Indian drink, punch.
The word “punch” is an English variation of the Hindi word, “panch.” Panch was made from five different ingredients: sugar, lemon, water, tea or spices and an alcoholic spirit. The word for “five” in Sanskrit is panchan–hence the name.
Mulled cider, with an optional splash of vodka. Photo courtesy Svedka Vodka.
The concept was brought back to Europe, where it became a mainstream drink at festive occasions.
After carbonated water (soda water) became available in the late 18th century, it became a sixth ingredient, added to the punch for some effervescence. However, the word for six in Sanskrit is shata. “Shat” just doesn’t work, so we’ll stick with “punch.”
Here’s a video recipe for wassail.
This non-alcoholic version of a wassail recipe combines apple cider and pineapple juice: certain to be popular with the kids.
Start planning to go a-wassailing!