Baking for Bookworms: Sweetened Spiced Wine from Isabel Allende’s The House of Spirits


There’s nothing like a glass of warm wine on a chilly autumn night. Even better if it’s just a little on the sweet side and has more than a hint of cinnamon.

Much of the food in this novel is related to class and status. The Trueba family is wealthy and they can, and do, put on quite the show when they want to. There’s also a lot of talk of food in relation to changing governments. When the socialists come into power for example, chicken and many other foods become affordable to all, but they must wait in long lines to receive things. After the military coup, the chicken is plentiful, but no one can afford the high prices and the chicken rots. Allende uses food to underline that changes in regime don’t necessarily benefit everyone (or even anyone), and the imagery is all the more poignant for being so closely linked to human necessity.

This wine drink is from one of the last happy meals described in the book, before the military coup happens. Alba and Jaime steal their conservative father/grandfather’s hidden stock of weapons and bury them in the mountains before he can use them against the socialists:

“They spent the rest of the weekend trout-fishing in the nearby river and roasting their catch on a fire of brambles, exploring the hills like children, and talking about the past. At night they drank hot wine with cinnamon and sugar and, huddled in their shawls, raised a toast to the face old Trueba would make when he discovered that he had been robbed, laughing until the tears rolled down their cheeks.”                                                                                    353

I liked the childlike nature of this section, and the return to simplicity, which is what this drink is all about.

Sweetened Spice Wine

This is a very simple recipe, and you should feel free to adapt it to your needs and wishes. Consider the amounts given as guidelines.

  • one bottle red wine (of your choice, I used a red blend)
  • anywhere from 1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup of brown sugar (you can substitute your favorite sweetener) 2 tablespoons is the perfect amount for me, sweet but not crazy sweet
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Place sugar, cinnamon, and a little of the wine (a third of a cup or so to start) in a pot over low heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Sitr in the rest of the wine and let simmer until hot. Drink and enjoy!

Spiced or mulled wine is one of my favorite winter adult beverages. What’s your favorite warm autumn/winter beverage? Alcohol is definitely not required.