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Hot tip: Microwave-mulled wine on Christmas Eve

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

So in the spirit of the holidays, in traditions and togetherness, the other day I sent a Slack to the ALL THINGS CONSIDERED staff. Hi, friends. If you have the pleasure of working with me on Sunday, I'm happy to announce that back in the day, working right before Christmas, I would mull wine in the NPR microwave, and I would like to bring this tradition back. The responses were immediate and plentiful and all skeptical. Microwaved wine? Not exactly warm holiday cheer for my colleagues. The debate over whether this was horrifying or, as I thought of it, holiday workplace ingenuity at its finest continued, and we decided to call in an expert.

PAUL CLARKE: People have been mixing honey, fruit and spices in their wine for pretty much as long as there has been wine.

DETROW: Paul Clarke is the editor-in-chief of Imbibe Magazine.

What is your response to microwaved mulled wine?

CLARKE: Yeah, don't do that. That's a terrible idea.

DETROW: Can you expand?

CLARKE: (Laughter) If you're mulling wine in the microwave, you're just cooking it. You're not kind of coaxing out those lovely flavors from the spices and from the orange peel.

DETROW: At this point, though, it was too late. I had to mull the wine in the microwave this weekend to defend my honor. So I asked Clarke for mulling tips, and then I followed some of them.

CLARKE: Well, it's super easy, but it's just like cooking anything else. You know, pay attention to the details.

DETROW: We don't have a ladle, so just like, dip your mugs in, I guess. I'll use my potholders, also known as the sleeves of my sweatshirt.

CLARKE: Pick a wine that you like, something that's kind of fruity and enjoyable.

DETROW: Got - we've got a cab here. I got it from Lodi because one of our producers, Tyler (ph), grew up in Lodi making wine, and she was especially horrified. So I thought...

CLARKE: Feel free to add some sugar to it. It's really going to benefit from that.

DETROW: We do not have any sugar to add, though that was a good tip. But what I will do is class this up with some orange peel. So I've got an orange. I've got a peeler. I'll get some orange zest in there.

CLARKE: Also, think about your spice mix. You know, some of the classic things like cinnamon and cloves and ginger are great.

DETROW: Mulling spices from our favorite internet store that delivers things overnight.

CLARKE: Also adding in some other sort of alcohol to help kind of like add aromatics and flavor to the mix.

DETROW: We're going to make it extra fancy with some French brandy here. All right. Here we go. The wine, I will point out, never came to a boil.

All right, people. It's wine time.

The reviews were honest.

All right. Everyone's kind of scared. Yeah, just dip, dip.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1, BYLINE: Just going to dip. OK, so just dipping. I'm not sure it's exactly the same as, like, a stovetop...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2, BYLINE: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: ...Situation. But it does taste just like really hot wine, you know what I mean? Not like a wine that's been, like, sitting in spices. It just tastes like hot water.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: It tastes like microwaved wine.

DETROW: So we did what all good journalists do. We listened, we learned, and we tried again today. And this time, we brewed our spice packets in hot water, and we let them steep for five minutes.

Got some honey. So that's more sugar like he talked about. This is more water in the wine like he talked about. Oranges, honey, mulling spices, give it a stir. And then - the results, better than Saturday's, but again, more honest reviews.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: It's hot wine (laughter).

DETROW: Oh, that's what somebody said yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: It really does smell normal.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Oh, that is a significant improvement over yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: There we go.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Yeah.

DETROW: So we're learning.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Yeah. Scott's hot wine.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Laughter) Scott's hot wine.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Trademark that right now.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: TM.

DETROW: Cheers. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.