When the weather turns cold in Prague and you are out enjoying the sites there is only one way of warming up, Svarak.
By Nancy Lopez-McHugh
When the weather turns cold in Prague and you are out enjoying the sites there is only one way of warming up, Svarak. Svarak (also called svarene vino) is the Czech name for mulled wine. Mulled means heated and spiced. Mulled wine is a warm drink made from red wine, some citrus fruit, a sweetener and spices. Sometimes it is additionally spiked with vodka or rum. Svarak is a popular warm drink during the cold weather months in Czech Republic as well as many other European countries. Perhaps some of you may know it as Gluhwein, the German name. Mexicans will find this vaguely reminiscent of ponche navideño.
Mulled wine has been around for a very long time. It was commonly drunk during medieval times. It was called Ypocras or Hipocris after Hippocrates the physician. People believed mulled wines to be good for your health. During the Roman Empire they were served as tonics. As time passed this “medicinal” drink become popular around many countries all of whom developed their own recipes.
Nowadays I think it safe to say that most people consider Mulled wine as a Christmas or holiday drink. It has become our traditional Christmas drink. One we love to warm up with while wondering through the Christmas markets on chilly snowy days. During the holiday season it is sold here at all of the Christmas markets as well as many restaurants. Some places make it from scratch and others go the cheap instant mix added to red wine way. It is difficult to suggest our favorite place or market vendor for Sva?ák. Instead just have fun and taste as many as you like or require to stay warm.
My recipe is not a traditional Czech, or any other traditional recipe for that matter, but really just a concoction of tasting as I went. The recipes for Svarak or Mulled wine vary greatly depending on the country, region or personal tastes. Most recipes you will find suggest you use a cheap red wine. This non-expert says, use one you know and enjoy but don’t go crazy. After all the taste will be masked by the spices and sweetener. On those occasions when I’ve been served cheap wine, I find the taste bitter. So my assumption would be that it would become more bitter after being heated.
- 1 bottle dry red wine
- 2 cinnamon stick
- 6 whole cloves
- 6 green cardamom pods, bruised
- 4 whole all spice
- 1 small piece of nutmeg or ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 thinly sliced tangerine, unwaxed or organic if possible
- ½ cup water
- 2 tbsp. honey, adjust to taste
- extra honey or sugar if desired
- Place all ingredients in a large pot. Cover and simmer under low heat for 40 minute.
- Serve warm with extra honey or sugar if desired.