Mulled wine - and cider - for Christmas

There's nothing like a glass of mulled wine to get you into the festive spirit. Here's three variations - including a seasonal sangria - plus a gorgeous mulled cider

Orange-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 medium 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
An extra-easy recipe I devised for my student website 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
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.

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

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.

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