Hugging season in Tuscany

The cold stone streets of Tuscany’s old towns are now bare of holiday decorations. End-of-season sales are almost behind us, the pictorial markets which stood in the piazzas are no longer there. Winter is here to stay for the next months. What seems to be off- season is actually our favorite time for visiting Italy’s old towns. There is such magic in the misty and foggy narrow stone streets, and besides recalling chestnut times in the main piazzas, this is now THE moment to hug a cup of local Vin Brule’. Aromatic and warm, cooked on an open fire in the main piazza or in an angle of the street, Vin Brule’ is our winter beverage. You can find it while hanging around either in Tuscany, Piedmont, Umbria… you name it – it is the time for Vin Brule’ hunting:)).

In spite of its French origin, Vin Brule’ is a part of winter’s scene in many European countries. Its presence in Italian cuisine is notable, and you can find it in most regions of north and central Italy. I love the Vin Brule’ of Gubbio in Umbria, the one in Florence lacks power, while the one in the Dolomites is sweet and comforting. All around the country you can find different versions – different wines, always red, and also the ingredients vary from one place to another. The experience, though, is always comforting and surrounds you with a warm and soft feeling, both from the wine and from the warm temperature in which Vin Brule’ is served.

Hosting with Vin Brule’ is a kind of a charm, either for an afternoon aperitif or as a mid-morning break of a cooking class experience, this is what melts people into a cozy and comfortable gathering. Since at these times we try to avoid sit-down dinners around the table, we moved into hosting friends for an afternoon aperitif of warm Vin Brule’ with some snacks and antipasti. In Italian we call it APERICENA, meaning aperitif dinner, which seems to be a winning formula– meeting and hosting without putting guests around a table. So next time you would like to test your chef-services capabilities, invite friends for an Apericena and offer them a Vin Brule’ with some appetizers and your success is guaranteed!

The secret of a winning Vin Brule’ starts with a good red wine, a warm one. The wine must be a full bodied, like Sangiovese or similar, followed by an exotic selection of spices, what we call warm spices. Continuing with a hint of citrus fruits, to empower the winter taste, and terminating with fresh bay leaves, for a blurring of senses.

Wanna give it a try?

Ingredients

1 litter of full-bodied red wine, Sangiovese or alike

Zest of 1 orange (the orange part only)

3 cinnamon sticks

5 cloves, tied together

Star of Anise

3 teaspoons of honey/ brown sugar

2 bay leaves (select the old ones on the bush, they are more aromatic)

Nutmeg

Put all ingredients in a pot, bring to boil and then cook for 20 – 30 minutes on a low fire.

Interesting to know: During the cooking time, Vin Brule’ loses all the alcohol. Therefore, there are no limits to the number of glasses or friends to invite, so go on warming your winter with our favorite drink!.

Serve in high temperature resistant glasses.

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