Secrets to the ultimate winter warmer: Mulled wine
When plain red wine can’t quite warm your cockles, it’s time to do what they’ve been doing for millennia – heat some spices with your wine. But what spices, and what wine?
There are quite a few styles out there: glühwein, gløgg, bisschopswijn, vin chaud, uentão… the list goes on. Everyone has a recipe for it, but if you break it down they all have a similar theme, and there are four simple ingredient types you’ll be wanting: citrus, spices, sugar, red or fortified wine.
After a few experiments, my prevailing advice is: keep it simple. The specific ingredients aren’t as important as the quantity and the quality. The more spices you add, the less it tastes like Christmas and the more like medicine. Also, don’t use wine you wouldn’t drink on its own. As the old adage goes, if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.
So which wine to choose?
Well, I might make the point here that everyone is different, in case you hadn’t noticed. Some have a sweet tooth, some like ginger, some hate vanilla, some like it spicy. And every wine is different too. So keeping that in mind, I’m not giving you a recipe. But I will give you the tools and the knowledge to make the best damn mulled wine you’ve ever had.
Pick a wine you like. Pick one that makes you think: “ooooh, a glass of that would be lovely, but if only it warmed me up that little bit more…” And not one that’s been sitting on the bench open for a week and tastes like grandma’s old stockings. If you use it for mulled wine it will just taste like grandma’s old stockings, warmed and spiced. Mmm...
Since you’re using the good stuff, you want to keep as much of that flavour as possible, so use Jamie Oliver’s advice and make a ‘syrup’ first with just enough wine to cover whatever flavourants you choose, then just add the rest of the wine and heat through. The other advantage of this is that it retains more alcohol, which is an important part of any wine’s balance. So throw off the shackles of historical recipes, and using some basic guidelines, change the world with me, one wonderful mulled wine at a time! Here we go…
The KISS Mulled Wine Recipe
What you need:
- Some citrus (eg. orange, lemon, clementine)
- Some spices (eg. cloves, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger)
- Some sugar (white is best)
- A bottle of red or fortified wine
This should be fun and not overthought (don’t mull it over too much), so I’m going to keep this simple, so you don’t have to keep looking at your iPad. After all, you’re over eighteen if you’re trying this, so I reckon you’ve got this.
What to do:
- Peel your chosen citrus, and add to a nice clean pan with the juice. Add your spices, remembering that less is often more. Add some sugar to taste. Barely cover with your selected wintry tipple. Now, bring to a boil and reduce to a lovely syrup*.
- Add the rest of your wine to the syrup and heat through – don’t boil. Immediately ladle into your favourite heatproof drinking vessel, snuggle up on the couch in your slippers and pjs, and enjoy the wonderful warmth you’ve just created.
Pro tip: if you find yourself having more mulled wine than you expected (which you will), you can freeze the syrup for future use.
Tips & Tricks
Citrus inspiration: orange, lemon, lime, clementine, tangerine, grapefruit, blood orange, finger lime.
Spice inspiration: cloves, star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla pod, pepper, galangal, chilli, bay leaf (the herb that thinks it’s a spice)
You could also try adding raisins (because everyone likes chunks in their drink), or substituting sugar for honey or maple syrup. Whatever you do, have fun, and enjoy your tasty newfound warmth.