Entertaining | How to Mull Wine + 3 Mulled Wine (and Cider!) Recipes for Holiday Entertaining


How to Mull Wine + 3 Mulled Wine (and Cider!) Recipes for Holiday Entertaining

Mulled wine is a seasonal staple but although it's easy to make it's also easy to spoil. Here are my top tips for how to mull wine plus recipes for mulled wine and mulled cider that your holiday guests will love:

Mulled Wine Basics

What type of wine?

You can mull white wine (though I’d rather mull cider – see below) but most people prefer a red. It needs to be inexpensive, obviously, but that doesn’t mean it should be undrinkable so don’t just chuck in the tail ends of bottles you may have hanging round the kitchen. And you don’t want a wine that’s too heavily oaked though that’s relatively unlikely if it’s cheap.

There’s a fair amount of inexpensive own-label Corbières I’ve noticed lately which would fit the bill perfectly or try a basic Portuguese red. Most recipes add water as well which brings down the cost and stops guests getting too plastered but adjust the amount to the strength of your wine.

What type of spices?

Whole spices work better than ground ones otherwise you can get an unpleasant powdery sensation as you drink. Cinnamon is probably the most popular spice but you could also use cloves, cardamom (lightly crush a few pods) ginger and nutmeg. Some recommend star anise but use sparingly if you don't want your mulled wine to taste of aniseed.

You can also buy mulling spices wrapped in muslin (better than in teabags) though make sure they're not from a dusty old packet. Look for a ‘use by’ date. A better option, if you’re short of time, is to buy a mulled wine cordial like Belvoir's - also great for those who simply want a mulled drink without the alcohol.

Other additions to mulled wine

Sugar - Most recipes call for sugar but you might want to add a little less than they suggest if your wine is particularly soft and fruity or if you add port. White or demerara sugar is fine - soft brown sugar adds a slightly fudgier flavour which works well in the recipe below. Some people (including Delia) advocate honey but I tend to think it has too dominant a flavour.

Citrus - Orange is particularly good with mulled wine. It could be a whole orange studded with cloves, a strip of orange peel or a dash of an orange-flavoured liqueur such as Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Triple Sec. Not orange juice - or any other fruit juice - as you want your mulled wine to be clear, not cloudy. And without ‘bits’.

Extra booze - Personally I like a good slug of ruby port in my mulled wine - not the cheapest out there but a vintage character or ‘Special Reserve’ type or, if you have some, some Late Bottled Vintage. Brandy is also a common addition but if you add port you don’t need it. Ginger wine or a ginger liqueur may also add the kick you're looking for; some sloe or damson gin an extra dash of plummy flavour but don't make the mistake of adding too many different types of booze. More isn't necessarily better ;-)

The art of mulling

This is the important bit. You need to infuse the wine long enough with the spices to take on their flavour but DON’T ON ANY ACCOUNT LET THE MIXTURE BOIL as you’ll be left with a bitter taste. Slow and low is the way to go. And it shouldn’t be served piping hot, just comfortably - and comfortingly - warm.

Some (including Jamie) recommend making a syrup first with the spices, sugar and wine but again there’s the risk that you’ll bring out the bitterness of a wine by boiling it. A better option is to make a spice infused sugar syrup as advocated by Susy Atkins in her excellent How to Make your own Drinks.

Cups or glasses?

Glasses are more traditional - and attractive - but unless you have a set with its own metal holders you’re probably better off with small coffee cups. A ladle with a spout is useful to dispense mulled wine at speed if that doesn’t sound too Pippa Middleton-ish or pour into a jug first before you top up the cups or glasses

Three Festive Mulled Wine Recipes

(and two bonus recipes for mulled cider and winter sangria!)

Orange and cardamom mulled wine

Traditional carol singers’ fare and the nicest of Christmas treats, mulled wine is surprisingly easy to make from scratch. Try and use whole spices so far as possible so you don’t get a slightly grainy texture to the punch 

Makes 14-16 cups or glasses

2 x 75cl bottles of full bodied red wine
510ml (18 fl oz) water
1 unwaxed orange studded with cloves + a few orange slices for serving
thinly pared rind from half a lemon
2 cinnamon sticks
6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
A little freshly grated nutmeg
95g (3 1/2 oz) soft brown sugar
100ml (3 1/2 fl oz) orange flavoured liqueur such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier

Place the wine and water in a large saucepan. Add the orange, lemon rind, spices and sugar and heat gently until almost boiling. Turn down to the lowest possible heat (the surface should barely tremble) and simmer for half an hour to allow the spices to infuse thoroughly. Add the orange liqueur or brandy then reheat gently. Strain into a large, warmed bowl and float a few thin slices of orange on top. Ladle into small cups or glasses. Serve with mince pies.

Cheat’s mulled wine

Purists will disapprove of using mulled wine sachets but you can find quite classy ones in good delis. And, if you’re pushed, it does save time.

Serves 6-8

1 75cl bottle of full bodied red wine (a cheap Spanish red would be ideal)
150 ml Vintage Character, Special Reserve or other inexpensive ruby port
150 ml water
4-5 tbsp granulated or caster sugar, preferably unrefined
1-2 mulled wine sachets
1 orange

Pour the red wine, port and water into a saucepan. Add 4 tbsp of the sugar and 1 sachet of the mulled spice. Pare 3 thin strips of orange rind off the orange with a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife and add to the saucepan. Heat very slowly until the sugar has dissolved, check for sweetness adding more sugar or another sachet of mulled wine spices if you think it needs it. Turn up the heat until the wine is almost at boiling point but DON’T LET IT BOIL or you’ll spoil the flavour. Turn the heat off, cover the pan and leave for 30 minutes for the flavours to infuse.

Mulled cider with sweet roasted apples

Even though I love mulled wine I'm not sure I don't love this even better. Use a good quality dry cider not a modern ‘white’ cider or draught cider which can be too strong.

Makes 12-14 servings

1 litre premium English cider
250ml Somerset cider brandy or calvados
1.5 litres cloudy English apple juice
A thinly pared strip of lemon rind
2 sticks of cinnamon
8 cloves

For the roasted apples
10-12 small Cox’s apples
About 75g light muscovado sugar
100ml premium English cider

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5. Wash and core the apples and score them around the middle. Put them in a baking dish and stuff the centre of each with the sugar. (It’s easiest to do this with the handle of a spoon or fork). Splash over the cider and roast in the oven until soft and beginning to split (45-50 minutes).

Meanwhile put the cider, cider brandy or calvados, and apple juice in a large pan, together with the lemon zest, cinnamon and cloves. Heat through gently then leave over a very low heat without allowing the mixture to boil. When the apples are ready, tip them and their juices into the mulled cider. Taste, adding a little extra sugar if you think it needs it. Serve straight from the pan into heat resistant glasses or cups or transfer to a warmed bowl.

Bonus recipe: Winter Sangria

A refreshingly cool alternative to mulled wine. You’ll need to adjust how much cordial and mulled wine you use depending on how fruity your wine already is.

Makes 10 glasses

1 bottle inexpensive, full bodied red wine 
Juice of 2 mandarin oranges (about 5-6 tbsp) 
4-6 tbsp spiced berry cordial
4-6 tbsp Grand Marnier or other orange-flavoured liqueur
4 whole mandarin oranges, thinly sliced
1 unwaxed lemon, thinly sliced
3 dark red plums, stoned and sliced (optional)
1 fresh pomegranate
400-500ml chilled cranberry and pomegranate juice

Pour the wine and the mandarin orange juice into a large bowl. Add 4 tbsp each of the spiced berry cordial and Grand Marnier and taste, adding extra cordial or liqueur if you think it needs it. Add 3 of the sliced mandarin oranges, the sliced lemon and plums, if using, stir and refrigerate for several hours. When you’re ready to serve, halve the pomegranate and scoop out the seeds, carefully retaining the juice and discarding any pith. Pour the juice and half the seeds into the sangria along with the cranberry and pomegranate juice, stir and taste again adding more juice or Grand Marnier if needed. Top with the remaining mandarin slices and seeds and serve.

* If you want to make this for larger numbers and can’t fit it in the fridge leave the base, covered, in a cold place like the garage then add the chilled juice from the fridge

See also:

The Best Wines to Pair With Your Christmas Dinner

8 Great Drinks to Match with Mince Pies

Photo © Anikonaann at fotolia.com

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Comments: 1 (Add)

Pam on November 20 2022 at 22:33

I'm going to place all the spices in a cheesecloth. Can I use ground cardamon instead of pods?

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