They say the ancient Romans invented mulled drinks, but the concept is so logical and delicious that it probably evolved anywhere that people needed to face down the icy blasts of winter. Alcohol is warming, spices are warming – heat them up and see what happens.
Dickens’ characters sipped on mulled wine when sleet blew through the London streets and the Thames froze over. Mulled drinks seem to be the main reason tourists go to Christmas markets in Europe and, in Scandinavia, glögg is served at every opportunity.
We may have to imagine the soft ticking of snow on the window panes, but a glass of something warm radiates cosiness. The glowing jewel colours, the aromas of cinnamon and orange and a breath of steam set the stage for a relaxing, snuggly evening.
With the colder months creeping in, now is a great time to get into Mulled Mixology. Why not think about treating yourself to some new glassware. The ruby glow of mulled red wine looks particularly fine reflecting off the facets of traditional cut crystal, whilst plump goblets big enough to warm two hands are perfect for cider.
When making any of the following drinks, heat very gently – just a simmer. Alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water – around 78 degrees – and evaporates if overheated.
This recipe from Good Food magazine adds Calvados, the delicious, but rather expensive, French apple brandy. Ordinary brandy is fine.
1½ litres dry cider
7 tbsp Calvados
400ml apple juice
75g dark brown sugar
Zest of 1 orange, cut into strips
4 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1 tbsp allspice berries
Pour the cider, Calvados, apple juice and sugar into a large saucepan, and gently heat. Keep on a low simmer for 20-30 minutes. Ladle into glass mugs or goblets to serve.
Mulled Gin – Hackney Homebrew
20ml sweet vermouth
10ml sugar syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
Orange zest, to garnish
To make sugar syrup, combine one part sugar and one part water and simmer until the sugar melts. In a clean saucepan, combine gin, vermouth and sugar syrup. Simmer on a low heat. Break the cinnamon and add to the pan. Add 20 grates of fresh nutmeg, followed by the star anise. Sieve into your serving vessel and garnish with orange peel. Serve warm.
750ml bottle of red wine
1 sliced orange or mandarin
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3 dried figs
3 black peppercorns
Pour the red wine into a large saucepan. Add the orange, cinnamon stick, star anise, figs, cloves and peppercorns. Heat very gently until simmering, then turn off the heat.
Fish out the whole spices and peppercorns with a spoon, then stir in the brandy. Ladle into mugs or heatproof glasses to serve. Drop a slice of mandarin or orange in each.
Mulled Apple and Gin
1 cinnamon stick
Peel of 1 large orange
Peel of 1 large lemon
Small knob of fresh ginger, grated
1 litre apple juice
2 tsp runny honey
50ml gin per person
1 orange wedge per person
Pour the apple juice into a large saucepan and add cinnamon, orange and lemon peel, and grated ginger. Place the pan over a low heat, simmering for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse. Stir in the honey and then strain the mixture into a jug. Pour a measure of gin into each glass and fill with the apple mixture. Garnish with orange wedges.