Sure, you can buy mulled wine from the supermarket, ready-made. But how about making your own at home this year? It’s probably easier than you think.
The festive creation has lots of gorgeous spices in, as well as fruits like orange, lemon, and ginger. We spoke to sommeliers and experts at wine bars to teach us the secret to the perfect hot, mulled wine.
“Don’t add sugar,” urges Ben McVeigh, a sommelier at south London neighbourhood restaurant and wine bar, Peckham Cellars. “Most mulled red wine recipes call for sugar and that’s what makes it too sweet.
“Classic mulled red wine calls for brandy, but try using port or sloe gin to add a little sweetness with extra depth and complexity at the same time.”
Choosing the right wine and getting the good quality stuff is just as important. “For red wine, opt for full-bodied, and fruity, but with low tannin and not oaky,” advises McVeigh.
“A classic Merlot from Italy or Chile will do the job just fine. After all, you’re heating it up and adding spices, you wouldn’t want to use something too fancy! But as with all things, the quality of the ingredients does count, so you don’t want something too basic either. I’d recommend an Italian Merlot.”
Don’t go overboard with the spices – opt for the traditional things such as cloves, star anise, cinnamon, bay leaf, lemon, and clementines. But have a little play, too – “half the fun of mulled wine is playing around and letting loose with the spices, depending on what’s in the cupboard,” he adds.
Then, when it’s cooking, it’s important everything is simmered low and slow.
“Don’t boil the wine, because then the alcohol starts to evaporate unless you want to make it weak and that is your actual goal,” says Katerina Jebousková, assistant general manager at south London wine bar Diogenes The Dog.
“I love the unique taste of added raisins in mulled wine because it soaks up all the beautiful flavour and it’s a lovely sweet touch,” she adds.
Learn how to make the perfect fuel (and hand warmers) for your winter walks with Jebousková’s ultimate mulled wine recipe.
Classic Mulled Red Wine
Serves: 3-4 people | Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: 15 mins
3 cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
1g star anise
3g ground nutmeg
3-4 orange peels, ensure no white pith and only peel
1 x bottle of red wine
60ml brandy (can use other liquor such as cognac, rum, or sloe gin)
1 apple, sliced
1 orange, sliced
A big handful of raisins (optional)
1-2 tbsp honey (depending on personal preference, can use agave syrup or maple syrup for a plant-based option instead)
1. If you have time steep the fruits and spices together with the brandy overnight beforehand to leave to its own devices to infuse. If short on time, gently heat the fruit and spices with some water in a big pot on the hob for 15 minutes.
2. Add the brandy and wine to the water spice mixture. Add honey once the heating process is finished that way it doesn’t lose flavour and it doesn’t burn. Serve while still hot.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.