Hot Stuff


I recently returned from Paris, and I want to share with you a very European and delicious way to warm up your winter. As you know, we Americans love coffee: tumbler-size containers of espresso and steamed milk, carried with us nearly everywhere we go. The French aren’t like that. When you order a coffee, you get a little cup that looks like it belongs in a tea party. Even when you specify “café crème”—i.e. add some milk please—you barely get six ounces of liquid.
So we had to find a different way to warm up after walking the cold, rainy streets. Luckily, nearly every café served vin chaud (which translates to “hot wine” and is pronounced vuhn show, barely enunciating the “n”)—the French version of old-fashioned mulled wine. Basically, it’s red wine, often Beaujolais, steamed, spiced and served with a big slice of orange, with sugar and cinnamon on the side.

Wow! This is Philistine heaven—a hot alcoholic drink with a hint of fruit, which you can sweeten even further. Heating the wine disperses some of the alcohol content, but believe me, there’s still enough to give you a nice midwinter buzz. And you know, your ancestors drank this stuff all the time. There wasn’t a chai vanilla latte or even a decent Chardonnay anywhere to be found. They had homemade wine that went bad fast, so they heated it to kill the germs and then added spices and such to make it palatable again.
To get mulled wine here in SF, try the Front Porch ( in Bernal Heights or Kan Zaman Cafe (1793 Haight St., 415-791-9656) in the Haight. And it’s not hard to make your own—Mr. Google has tons of good recipes. Cheers. I mean, salut.
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