Thursday, December 27, 2012

Making Spirits Bright: Negus!

Mentioned in classic literature, including the likes of "A Christmas Carol," "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights," negus is a port-based drink warmed with spices and a touch of sugar, then thinned with hot water. It's perfect to bring out after a meal while the company settles into comfy chairs in front of a roaring fire, which is exactly how my friend Antonia served it the other evening.

The amount of port called for in the recipe requires just over a bottle, leaving most of a second bottle for enjoying on its own (or, as noted below, you can just use one bottle), and it only takes about 20 minutes to make. The perfect holiday warmer, it also makes a terrific nightcap.

Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet magazine, 1966

1 qt. ruby port (one 750 ml bottle is adequate)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1 cinnamon stick
Ground nutmeg, to taste (optional)
Whole cloves, to taste (I used four)
1 qt. boiling water

Heat port in large saucepan but do not let it boil. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice, grated lemon rind, cinnamon, nutmeg (if using), and cloves. Let the mixture stand in a warm place for about 15 minutes. In another saucepan, bring a quart of water to boil. Strain the lemon rind and spices out of the port mixture and combine with boiling water. Serve immediately.

Makes about 16 individual servings, but any left over can be refrigerated and reheated.

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