August is a fading memory and, mercifully, so is all of the frenetic activity of summer that went by whiplash-fast. Now the flaming hues of autumn paint empty up-Island roads and wild grapes scent the air. Parking spaces can be found on Circuit Avenue. Even the end-of-season sales are winding down. And yet the pumpkin patch is jumping at Morning Glory Farm and the corn maze continues to beckon. The last gleanings of the farms still entice. It’s potluck season – good thing; there’s been enough of a respite from preparing summer meals for house guests that cooking is a pleasure again. It’s time to bring in the firewood, rekindle the hearth’s flames, and hunker down by the fire. There’s a nip in the air and there needs to be a nip in us all.

For some of us, the change of seasons is marked by a change of drink, the rosé wines of summer morphing into the pinot noirs and lighter reds of autumn that segue into the heartier wines of winter. For me, the first hint of chill drives me into my kitchen to celebrate the change of seasons with my first vin chaud. Sold at Christmas markets in Nancy, France, and savored by students in that city’s cafes and brasseries, vin chaud simply means hot wine and is the perfect tipple for warming up after a nippy day. The aromatic spiced wine tastes like a hot sangria, and has an added citrus tang that reminds of summer’s bright tastes even on the grayest day.

Vin Chaud

Serves 6

  • 750 milliliter bottle Côtes du Rhône–style
  • red wine
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar, or to taste
  • Zest and juice of one orange (about 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice)
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice)
  • 2  2-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 5 grains black pepper
  • 1 pod star anise (optional)
  • Shaved ginger and/or cardamom (optional)
  • Freshly grated nutmeg

Place the wine, sugar, citrus zest, and juice in a non-reactive saucepan and bring almost to a boil over medium heat. Add the remaining ingredients, reduce heat to a low simmer, and continue to cook for twenty minutes. Strain into mugs or teacups. Top with freshly grated nutmeg and serve hot. Add a shot of brandy if desired.