Around for thousands of years and perfect for winter weather, mulled wine was originally a creation of the Romans who would heat their wine to keep them healthy and warm in the colder months. Medieval Europeans also found that adding herbs and spices would help fight off winter chills and it was very popular in Victorian times. Since then it has been associated with Christmas, partly thanks to Dickens giving it a mention in ‘A Christmas Carol’.
Easy to make, it can be put on the stove to warm while you’re busy getting ready for guests. It’s the ultimate festive drink – as soon as you step through the door the scent just says ’Christmas!’
The best wine to use is a medium-bodied wine – no need to use the most expensive, as you’re adding to it. The Finca Fabian Tempranillo would be a good choice: an extremely well-made organic red wine from Spain with plenty of cherries and berries and a lovely balance that works well with the spices you’ll be adding.
A simple way to get the right balance of flavours is by using the Heron Valley Mulling spices – you can make your own mulled wine, cider or apple juice in minutes. Heron Valley’s blend mixes organic cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
Gently warm your wine, cider or juice in a pan and pop in a spice bag to steep. Add sliced lemons and oranges or clementines, a sprinkle of sugar, and a splash of brandy for even more festive punch.
You can play around with the recipe to make it in your own uniquely traditional way. Try adding any of the following:
Cardamom, star anise, cinnamon sticks, a few whole cloves, or even a few black peppercorns for a spicier flavour. Add a little orange to make your drinks go further or go big and add a splash of port.
Remember not to overheat the wine – heat it “low-and-slow” until it’s warm and almost too hot to touch. Ladle into mugs or heatproof glasses to serve.
Heron Valley’s winter party drink recipe
Take 2 litres of still cider, warm in a large pan with 2 mulling spice bags, sugar to taste (approx. 2 large cups) and half a lemon. Infuse for 10 mins. Or, warm 2 bottles of sweet apple juice in a large pan with 2 spice bags. Add a shot of rum or Pimm’s and infuse for 10 mins.
Christmas fair mulled cider
This mulled cider was so popular at an event we hosted that we’ve had endless requests for the recipe. Any dry, scrumpy type cider will do for it. Add in a splosh of Calvados (apple brandy), sloe gin or rum for something a bit more potent.
5 litres cider
About 200g dark muscovado sugar
100g cinnamon sticks
25g allspice powder
A few whole cloves
Large pinch nutmeg
Large pinch ginger
Put all the ingredients in a large pan. Cover with a lid and infuse at 60°C for 30 minutes. Strain off the cinnamon sticks and cloves, then reheat to serve.
For mulled apple juice, leave out most of the sugar and add a couple of sliced oranges and lemons.