Mulled wine is as essential to a traditional British Christmas as mince pies or Christmas pudding, and most of us don’t drink it at any other time of year. The word ‘mulled’ just means ‘heated and spiced’, and you can mull other drinks such as fruit juice, cider and mead.
Heated wine has a history going back hundreds of years, and it was a favourite in medieval times when the temperature and spices were thought to ward off illness. The Victorians were big fans, and it was probably around that time that mulling wine became a traditional Christmas activity.
There are dozens of variations on the basic recipe, and everyone has their favourite, but ingredients should include red wine (by custom, claret or port) and various spices including cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Many shops now sell little bundles of mulling spices to be suspended in the wine while it’s heating, but it’s easy enough to make your own version. Here’s a recipe to use as a base, but you’ll need to experiment a little to find out what combination of spices and sweetness you prefer – after all, as that famous Victorian Mrs. Beeton remarked in her Book of Household Management, “it is very difficult to give the exact proportions of ingredients like sugar and spice (when making mulled wine), as what quantity might suit one person would be to another quite distasteful.”
- a large saucepan
- one bottle of red wine (cheap is fine)
- 50 to 60g sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 orange, cut into small pieces
Put all the ingredients except the sugar in the saucepan, and heat gently. Don’t let it boil! Add most of the sugar, and stir until dissolved. Taste, and add the rest of the sugar if necessary. Serve immediately in heatproof glasses.
Variations: For a stronger, sweeter taste, add 60ml of sloe or damson gin just before serving. For a less boozy version, replace half the wine with orange juice.
Merry Christmas from the Swettenham Arms x