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A warm glass of mulled wine is the perfect way to spice up a Christmas gathering. The outdoor markets across Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic rely on this tasty winter warmer to keep shoppers shopping in freezing temperatures. While our winters aren’t quite as cold, a glass of this Christmas cheer is delicious and easy to make at home all winter.
There are almost as many recipes for mulled wine as there are varieties of red wine you can put in it; thus, many elements are optional. The essential ingredients are red wine, sugar, citrus and spices. The key to the flavour of your mulled wine lies in the spices you add. If you’re unsure of their tastes, add and subtract various spices until you hit your perfect mix.
2 bottles of red wine *
100 g demerara sugar or 6 tablespoons of honey
1 unwaxed orange studded with cloves (approx 15 cloves)
1 unwaxed lemon, sliced (exchange this for a sliced unwaxed orange if you have a sweet tooth)
1 apple, sliced
1 cinnamon stick **
1 bay leaf
½ inch fresh ginger, diced ** (optional)
3 cardamom pods, bruised (optional)
2 whole star anise (optional)
A good shot of sloe or damson gin (optional)
* You can start with just one bottle, but the spices really like time to infuse and blend with the wine, so a larger batch seems logical. Any red wine will do – this is a good time to palm off any cheap reds you haven’t wanted to pull out for dinner!
** You can use ground cinnamon and ginger, but the mulled wine can end up with a grainy residue at the bottom. One cinnamon stick equals one level teaspoon of ground cinnamon; half a teaspoon of ground ginger should do.
Pour the wine into a large saucepan, then add all the sugar, spices, fruit and sloe gin (if you’re using it). Heat slowly over low heat – you do not want this to boil – and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. The smell will be glorious, and the flavours just as good.
Ladle carefully into a glass or mug, leaving all the citrus and spices in the pan. You can add a slice of lemon or orange to each glass, but we feel it gets in the way when sipping! Handles are useful because of the heat of the mulled wine, and jam jars give a good retro feel.
If your guests rock up with extra wine, just add it to the pot. The citrus and spices will continue to infuse with flavour. If you're using ground spices, add an extra pinch per bottle added. You’ll notice when the spices have stopped giving out their flavour, at which point you’ll have to start again!