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Is now the winter of our discontent?

A warming beverage and a reminder of things to be grateful for this Christmas--all good things. Photo: supplied.

As the challenging year of 2020 draw to a close we may ask, is "Now the Winter of our Discontent”?

When Shakespeare wrote these words, he followed them with “Made glorious summer by this sun [or son] of York". His intent was to show that after hardship comes reward and goodness.

We have all experienced the effects of the pandemic in one way or another. Whether it’s getting sick or trying to stay well, losing loved ones, not being able to have get-togethers, or trying to keep small businesses open and employees working, it’s been very difficult for all of us.

As daylight hours shrink and the long, dark, cold nights are upon us, most look forward to gathering with friends and family to bring light, warmth and cheer to the season.  Things will likely look very different this Christmas and Hanukkah as we do our part to reduce the spread of this virus.  

While we’re hunkered down in our homes, we can still bring the joy of the season into our lives by listening to holiday music, taking brisk walks on snowy days, baking traditional goodies and preparing special treats to deliver to friends and family.   As we speak, my 90 year-old dad is busy resurrecting his mother’s Christmas plum pudding recipe so he can make a few to give to me, my sister and his neighbour.  I’m assured the dried fruit has been soaking in brandy for awhile now!

We’re advised to get outside as much as possible, even in our winter climate. Personally, bundling up and sitting around a roaring firepit on a mild winter night is a pleasure I embrace, especially if I have a cup of something delicious and warm to drink.  Hot chocolate with Crème de Menthe liqueur is a favourite, or coffee and Bailey’s or moose milk, another creamy cocktail to keep the chill off.  A popular warm beverage served at Christmas markets in Europe or for apres ski is Gluehwein.  We call it mulled wine here and it’s delicious!  As an added bonus, when it’s kept simmering on the stove, your whole home will smell like a warm, spicy, haven for the holiday season.

Give it a try!  Let’s turn this winter of discontent into one of gratitude and kindness.


INGREDIENTS ( Recipe can be doubled)

1 bottle dry red wine ( something Cheap‘n Cheerful!)

1 orange, sliced in half then into half-rounds

1/8 cup sugar

1/8 cup honey

1/2 Tablespoon whole cloves

2 cinnamon sticks, plus more for garnish

3 star anise, plus more for garnish

5 cardamom pods

1/2 cup brandy


Pour the wine into a large stockpot over low/medium-low heat and add in the orange slices, sugar, honey, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and cardamom pods.

Heat until just under a simmer, stirring occasionally, and hold at that temperature for at least 15 minutes to dissolve the sugar and infuse the wine with all of those lovely flavours.

To serve, pour a shot of brandy into each mug and top with mulled wine.  For garnish, throw in an extra cinnamon stick and some of those mulled orange slices.  Can be cooled and reheated the next day too.

Seasons Greetings!

Alison Phillips is co-owner of Aligra Wine & Spirits in West Edmonton Mall.