Here’s how to get it just right
When the carol singers are out in force and there’s a Christmassy feeling everywhere – or even earlier in the run-up if you love the warming, spiced flavours – it’s time to get out the store cupboard spices and make some mulled wine.
Sooo, any old wine will do, right?
There’s a school of thought that says any cheap plonk will do for mulling and that’s largely true. For the most palatable results though, make sure you choose as fruity a red as possible, and always go for unoaked. Oak or tannin will give you a bitter overtone, no matter how much sugar you add.
Remember, too, that a pricey wine will lose all its notes and nuances during the mulling process, so keep your best for savouring over the season with richer dishes and cheese.
If you’re making traditional British mulled wine (rather than German glühwein or Nordic gløgg), the traditional spices to use are cloves, grated nutmeg and cinnamon or mace, and you can adjust the quantities according to your personal preference (and make sure you filter with a muslin cloth before serving).
Star anise, ginger and vanilla pods are optional additions which can alter the character of your finished product, so experiment with a few combinations before you settle on the perfect blend to serve your guests.
Getting in the festive spirit
Just as some people lace homemade sangria with brandy, you can ramp up the potency of your mulled wine with the addition of a dash or two of a compatible spirit. Rum is warming and seasonal, but it might be more advisable to go for something a little lower in alcohol, like cassis or sloe gin if your wine is good and fruity; or if you have added orange slices during mulling, a little Grand Marnier, Triple Sec or Curaçao.
Gently does it
Warm your wine gently to allow the spices to infuse – and to avoid boiling off the alcohol. You want to serve it at a drinkable temperature – not take the roof off an unsuspecting guest’s mouth!
There’s no reason why drivers and non-drinkers should be left out in the cold (it’s winter, after all). Try our recipe for Festive St Clement’s punch. The usual spices are complemented by zingy ginger and tangy citrus.
A lovely alternative to mulled wine, and quickly gaining in popularity, is Mulled spiced cider. Using still cider rather than the sparkling variety means you can serve it as a warm drink, just as you would mulled wine.