+ Happy Hour

Happy Hour: Fiscally Feasible Festivities

The holidays are murder on my budget.  Between the gifts and dressing for the parties, I spend January subsisting on nothing but Ramen noodles and hope.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Believe it or not, you can find reasonably-priced cocktail attire.

Mikael Aghal Chiffon Cocktail Dress (The Outnet, $82) 

Not bad for under-$100, right?  And best of all, it’s not black!  So you’re guaranteed to stand out wherever you do, even if your holiday party is a holiday house party.  

In fact, I think house parties are sometimes preferable to nights out on the town.  And what libation can you serve at your holiday cocktail party that won’t break the bank?

 The answer to your troubles is…

Belle’s Crockpot Mulled Wine

2 Clementines
2 Oranges
1 Lemon
1 Lime
1.5 cups of Sugar, more to taste
6 Cloves
2 Cinnamon Sticks
2 Vanilla Beans
3 Star Anise Pods
1 Bay Leaf 
A few gratings of fresh nutmeg 
1 Bottle of Chianti
2 Bottles of Red Wine

This is my own recipe.  Time tested, staffer approved.

Break out your crockpot turn it on medium.  Pour in, one bottle of Chianti, two bottles of red wine.  Stir in the sugar until dissolved.  

Add the ground nutmeg, and float the whole spices in the pot.  Slice the vanilla pod vertically, scrape out paste, stir into wine mixture, and then float the bean in liquid.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel large sections of citrus skin from the fruit.  Drop them in the wine so that the essential oils permeate.  I like to use a selection of citrus for a deeper flavor because this allows me to use cheaper wine and without sacrificing flavor.

Squeeze the juice from two clementines and one orange.  Add to the crockpot.  Slice the other orange, and add to the pot for appearance more than anything.

Taste wine.  Add more sugar, a tablespoon at a time if needed.  If you don’t want to add too much sugar, I sometimes ladle in a bit of apple cider to help the flavor.

Let simmer for one hour.  Then remove bay leaf and anise pods. (I don’t like licorice flavor, so I don’t like to leave the anise in too long.  If you like that wretched taste, by all means, leave them.)  Leave cloves and cinnamon sticks.

Turn high and let sit for a half an hour to an hour.  This recipe serves 6-12 depending on level of consumption.

It’s delicious, but a word of warning: This is not a drink you want to get drunk on.  There is way too much sugar in here for that.  So unless you want the wine hangover from Hades, drink this early in the evening.



  1. DC Atty says:

    I was introduced to mulled wine (they called it spiced wine) in Montreal a few years ago and have been looking for a good recipe. I have successfully substituted Splenda for sugar in just about everything I've tried. What do you think about using Spenda instead of the sugar here? Also, would this work to create a batch and shove the leftovers in the fridge for reheating later?

    November 18, 2011/Reply
  2. Belle says:

    Leftovers works, but you need to freshen up the product with some new citrus. I also like to pour in bubbly drinks and sip the leftovers cold.

    Splenda does not work, sadly. Tried it once and the acrid taste was ridiculous. You could probably use Stevia or another natural sweetener like Agave nectar.

    November 18, 2011/Reply
  3. Nancy says:

    I thought I was the only dreading January. The holidays are also a murder my budget like no other season.
    thanks for this post!

    November 19, 2011/Reply