The aroma of spice and citrus fruits is filling the air, and glasses of ruby red mulled wine that stain lips pink and fill you with a fuzzy glow are being sipped, which can only mean one thing; it’s Christmas.
If you don’t care for the often overly-sweet supermarket mulled wine, or that served in pubs and bars of today, you can be forgiven. But done well, it should be a balance of fruit, spice, sweet and sour with enough alcohol to give it that festive kick.
The mulling tradition can be been traced back to the medieval households of the second century, where it was seen as a show of wealth and community. For a drink that has become synonymous with the festive period, it surprisingly has no definitive recipe so get a bit creative this Christmas and play around with your favourite flavours!
CREATE THE PERFECT FAIL-SAFE BASE
One of the most referred to recipes for mulled wine in history is that of Mrs Beeton’s in her 1861 ‘Book of Household Management’. She sates that “To every pint of wine allow 1 large cupful of water, sugar and spice to taste”. This basic combination still stands today, as do her preferred spices of “clove, grated nutmeg, and cinnamon”. Whole spices work best, or even shop bought tea bags which contain all the most popular spice combinations.
ADD SOME FESTIVE KICK
To make it that little bit extra special, adding a low proof spirit or liqueur can really intensify the flavours without intoxicating your guests too much! Mrs Beeton suggests using entirely port, and while not testing this ourselves, we can only imagine the heady results. We suggest a splash of port, brandy or even ginger wine.
CHOOSE YOUR GARNISH
Whether you go the classic route of clove studded orange or simple slices of citrus fruit, it really is up to you. Serve in a glass mug or wine glass, and keep the wine on a very low heat to top up when needed.
2 bottles medium good quality, unoaked red wine
1 orange studded with cloves and some extra slices for serving
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
Freshly grated nutmeg
90g soft brown sugar
100ml port or brandy
Place the wine and water in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add the clove-studded orange, spices and sugar and heat until almost boiling. It is important not to let the wine boil as this will burn off the alcohol.
Turn down to the lowest setting and allow to simmer for 30 mins to infuse the flavours. Add the brandy or port and then sieve into a large jug. Add the orange slices and serve.
Laura Reynolds is a London-based print journalism graduate aspiring to combine her love of food and drink with a career in the media industry. When she isn’t writing about food, she is either reading about it, making it or scoping out the next best place to indulge in it.
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