It is commonly believed that mulled wine, like Christmas trees and Christmas decorations, comes from Germany and is an adaptation of its famous glühwein. In actuality, most European countries have long had their own version of a warmed, spiced winter wine, with examples being vino caliente in Spain, vin brulé in France and glogg in Norway. Each is subtly different in terms of the spices and aromatics used, often reflecting the character of the local wines.
The Romans brought with them to the UK a love of warmed wine, perhaps as an antidote to the colder temperatures they experienced as their empire spread across northern and eastern Europe. Here’s is a very English recipe for mulled wine – but do feel free to experiment with your own ingredients and flavours.
Though more often made with red wine, this recipe works perfectly well with white wine too. The wine doesn’t need to be of particularly good quality either, which is helpful if you’re planning a large batch for a Christmas party.
For each full bottle of wine, add two whole cinnamon sticks, a whole peeled orange, the juice of another orange, 8-10 whole cloves, three star anise and either brown sugar, honey or maple syrup to sweeten the mixture. Heat the mulled wine very gently and slowly to avoid burning off all the alcohol and to allow time for the spices to infuse – about an hour is ideal. To serve, garnish with slices of fresh orange or a handful of fresh cranberries.
For anyone who likes their Christmas drinks with a bit more of a kick, add a measure of brandy to each glass before serving, but do warn your guests that you’ve amped up the festive cheer!