Instant central heating: Mulled wine. Photo: Edwina Pickles
What is it?
It has been the classic warming drink since the days of ancient Rome; alight with spices and fragrant with winter fruits. Now the city's coolest bartenders are ladling out mulled wine, Austrian and German gluhwein, Nordic glogg, and its contemporary equivalent, hot cider.
Where is it?
At Arcadia Liquors in Redfern, owner David Jank makes 10 litres of ''Gunther's Gluhwein'', named for his Austrian-born father, every day. ''It's important to use a good wine,'' he says. ''The quality of the wine dictates the amount of sugar you will need.'' Jank employs cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamom, orange rind and a cabernet shiraz. ''The longer you simmer it, the better the flavour.''
At The Larder, Otto Ristorante's more casual little next-door-neighbour, the mulled wine is especially popular with those sitting outside. ''It's a very European thing,'' says head chef Richard Ptacnik, who simply brings the merlot, spices and citrus zests to the boil and allows them to infuse for 15 minutes. ''I use a recipe handed down from my grandmother, which was handed down by her grandmother,'' he says. ''But I add a little brandy for an extra kick.'' Meanwhile in Bondi, the house cabernet shiraz is bolstered with Sailor Jerry rum, a warmly spiced rum from the Caribbean. ''We brew it daily, and leave it sitting up on the bar,'' says Bucket List's Jee De Bruyn. ''People walk past and smell it, and just have to try it.''
At Madame Brussels in Bourke Street, you can snuggle up on the balcony with a blanket and a hot-water bottle, hugging a warming glass of gluhwein scented with orange, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and nutmeg. "Everyone just glows after a cup of it," manager Miss Pearls says. "They have lovely red cheeks, I love it."
In Albert Park, the soup-warmer on the bar at Rhone Wine and Tapas is a further sign of our favourite hot tipple. "As soon as we take the lid off, the aromas of cloves and cinnamon spread through the room," says owner Lee Glasgow. "Most people have it as an aperitif but quite a few people like it at the end of the night."
At The Wilde in Fitzroy, the mulled wine sits in a billy kettle on the bar, filled with pinot noir scented with spices and a secret ingredient - fresh ginger. "It gives it a bit of freshness," owner Wayne Markus says. British-born Markus says the mulled wine fits in well with the open fire and the cosy gastropub vibe.
Why should I care?
Because it's instant central heating when you've come in from the cold.
Can I do this at home?
Easily. Just don't boil it too long or the alcohol will evaporate - and don't overdo the cloves.
Arcadia Liquors, 7 Cope Street, Redfern, 8068 4470.
The Bucket List, Bondi Pavilion, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Bondi Beach, 9365 4122.
The Larder, Finger Wharf, 6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo 9368 7488.
Madame Brussels, Level 3, 59 Bourke Street, city, 9662 2775.
Rhone Wine and Tapas, 125 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park, 9682 2388.
The Wilde, 153 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, 9416 4116.
750ml dry red wine (merlot, shiraz)
100g brown sugar
6 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
4 star anise
1. Cut the unpeeled mandarin crosswise into four slices, discarding ''ends''.
2. Combine 250 millilitres red wine and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil. Add one sliced mandarin, cinnamon, cloves and star anise, bring to the boil, and simmer for 10 minutes until syrupy and reduced by almost half, skimming off any froth as necessary.
3. Add the remaining wine and simmer gently, without boiling, for 10 minutes. Strain into heatproof glasses, add remaining fresh mandarin slices, and serve with the cinnamon sticks.
Sorrel, that leafy green with a lemony tang. Spotted in Sydney at Buzo Trattoria in Woollahra (smoked eel, mascarpone and sorrel frittata); and at Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay (baby beets with goat curds, black olives, pine nut and sorrel). Also spotted in Melbourne at Richmond's Union Dining (Yarra Valley rainbow trout with roast zucchini, sorrel and baby shallots), and as a dessert at Comme (sorrel cream with mandarin, honey meringue and verjus sorbet).