As nights draw in and winter edges closer, there’s a hankering for a cosy feeling. To draw the curtains, light the fire and run a bubble bath. ‘Tis the season for mulled wine.
Compulsory for Christmas on the continent, mulled wine is just catching on here in Australia. A warmed and sweetened wine, infused with spices, mulled wine is a guaranteed winter warmer: perfect for nights in or family gatherings.
From the Greeks, who mulled to mask poor quality wine, to the Romans, who needed to keep warm whilst conquering, Europeans long thought the spices and heat warded off illness and evils. We can’t argue with that.
Fruity European wines often form the foundations, whilst spices from along the Silk Road add warming Christmassy flavours. Almost every country has its own version: from the Glögg of Scandinavia, to Germany’s Glühwein. Jamie Oliver insists on creating a mulled wine syrup first, whilst Mary Berry encourages you to keep it simple. Each recipe has its own personality – and we’re going to teach you how to craft your own.
Heat is your #1 priority
Finding your own mulled wine recipe is based on preferences: from style of wine (white, red, port, fruit-based) to the added spices. One thing never changes: mulled wine is warm. But you must never let it boil.
Boiling the wine cooks off the alcohol, and risks your spices getting burnt and bitter.
The reduction of alcohol is why Northern European countries (like Germany or Sweden) add a shot (or schuß) of spirit to their mulled wine on serving. That’ll put some fire in your belly!
You want your wine to simmer for about 20 minutes at a low-medium heat. Reheating it is fine, but the flavours do get more intense.
Quality of spices trumps quality of wine
Mulled wine can easily be made with cheap wine – although we think our Harmony blend is a sturdy yet fruity base to begin with. What really matters is your mix of spices, fruits and sweeteners.
The spices are key – and highly personal
Cinnamon, cloves and star anise are the foundations. You’ll want to start with a stick of cinnamon per bottle of wine, and a couple of cloves and star anise.
Slices of orange and lemon, juice and/or the rind add a rounded citrus element. Sugar, honey and vanilla provide sweetness. If you’re feeling adventurous: cardamom (pods, bruised), ginger, bay leaves and grated nutmeg are also strong traditional flavours to add.
Whilst the Europeans expect their mulled wine to be served sediment-y, with spices still present, you may want to strain yours before serving – or at least warn your guests about the bits!
Garnishes provide more than just something to look at
Serve your mulled wine in either a mug or heatproof glass – ideally with a handle, to enable cuddling over. Every glass should be served with at least one garnish.
A clove-studded clementine is perhaps the best-known image of mulled wine, but provides that herby fruit flavour and scent. A single orange slice is understated and classic.
Crushed nuts are a popular finishing touch in the Scandis, as are dried fruits like raisins. Adding raisins to your mulling pot adds flavour and sweetness. They will also rehydrate whilst they simmer, providing a delicious pop of mulled flavour when the pot is finished.
There are alcohol free options
Whilst the booze provides a lot of the winter warming vibes, your vinophobic friends are still able to take part in the chilly treat. Mulled cider has a strong heritage in the UK – as does the alcohol-free (child friendly) mulled apple juice.