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Let's face it: most mulled wine is boring. It's over-cinnamoned, over-allspiced, over-sweetened. If there's a holiday drink Not Looked Forward To as much as your average mulled wine, I don't know what it is.
A couple years ago I spent a very lovely weekend mulling and tasting several bottles' worth of wine to figure out how to do right by this neglected tradition. The short answer: most pre-packaged mulling spices are junk and you're best off mulling wine from scratch with whole spices. I wound up with a recipe that I've made ever since, one tinged with orange, star anise, brandy, and maple.
Holiday season is creeping up on us, and in the interest of being prepared I've revisited that recipe with adaptation in mind. Mulled wine can be great. But mulled wine ice cream might be even better.
You can use your favorite mulled wine recipe in place of mine—the principle of spicing wine and reducing it fourfold into a syrup is a flexible one—but pay heed to the overall sugar content as you do so. If your mulled wine calls for added sugar, adjust the sugar you add to your custard base accordingly.
Frozen mulled wine is more of a demure suggestion than a wallop of steamy warmth. As Niki put it, this ice cream works a lot like vanilla bean: gently but assertively spiced with floral, fruity, and citrusy flavors working in tandem. It's a good general purpose ice cream but with a point of view all its own. The way mulled wine should be.