When I am in London for Christmas, I often invite local friends to pop round for drinks and nibbles on Christmas eve. It’s a lovely start to Christmas and all (well, at least most) pre-Christmas preparations have been done, if anything really still needs doing, then I’m sure someone will help me later. So it’s time to relax and enjoy the company of friends and family.
This is actually only true of the last few years. I wasn’t that relaxed when the boys were young.
What better way to start the evening than with a glass of mulled wine in one hand and a mince pie in the other.
Mulled wine is very easy to make, and starts with a sugar syrup to which spices are added to allow them to infuse before adding the red wine. After that it just needs to be kept over a low heat. I don’t like very sweet mulled wine myself. The addition of a bit more caster sugar later is easy if it’s not to your taste, but you cannot take it out once it’s added!
Prepare the base for the mulled wine ahead
If you want to get ahead and save any last minute rushing, make the syrup up in the morning, add the sliced fruit, cover and leave in a cool place until you’re ready. Then add the wine to the pan and heat for about 15 minutes before your first guests are due to arrive.
- 2 oranges
- 1 lemon
- 300ml water
- 75g caster sugar
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 8 cloves
- 5 cardamon pods, crushed
- ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 bottles full bodied red wine
- Slice one orange and squeeze the juice from the other. Slice the lemon.
- Place the orange juice, water, sugar, and spices in a large saucepan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and boil gently for 5 minutes.
- Add all the orange and lemon slices, followed by the wine. Heat until just beginning to simmer.
- Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for at least 15 minutes. Do not allow it to boil. Serve hot in sturdy glasses.
Take care when heating the mulled wine. You want to avoid boiling the mixture as this will drive off all the alcohol and will spoil the flavour. The trick is to keep it barely simmering, so that the wine is hot with just the occasional bubble rising to the surface. If you have a slow cooker it’s ideal for keeping mulled wine warm at parties but heat it in the pan for the 15 minutes or so first.
Fancy trying something different? Try my mulled cider flavoured with ginger, star anise and cinnamon, it will be on the blog tomorrow.