Tis the season for mulling it over, wrapping up warm, and enjoying a hot drink (or two, we don’t judge) on your winter walk. We can’t visit Christmas markets as we normally would, but we can still get that comforting taste at home.
Nothing says festive quite like the heady aroma of mulled wine stewing in a saucepan with cinnamon sticks, nor the instant warming feeling of that first sip. But when it comes to mulled wine, red isn’t always the answer.
Warwick Smith, founder of east London winery, Renegade Wines, has been getting creative and brewing white mulled wine for thirsty Londoners. The very idea has us equal parts horrified and intrigued, so we had to find out more.
“We like to look at wine and winemaking from a different angle. If you can mull red, why not white?” Smith tells HuffPost UK. “The biggest draw to mulled white wine for me is that it’s a nice change. It’s light, refreshing, warming, and zesty. It’s less spicy and full-on than a heavily mulled, big red.”
Just because white wine isn’t as intense doesn’t mean it’s bland. You can go quite bold with citrus and spices – as when it all combines, the taste will soften.
“Avoid adding too much sugar. Remember, you can always add, you can’t take away,” Smith advises. “We’ve gone citrusy and fresh in our approach, so we’ve only added lemon, orange, vanilla, cloves, ginger, and a little sugar.
“We wanted subtle so that the wine was the star. But I’d recommend playing around and adding what you like. There are no real rules.”
Mulled white wine
Serves: | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 30 mins
3 bottles of Sauvignon blanc (or use another fresh, aromatic, zesty wine)
1 orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
30g caster sugar per bottle (90g in total)
In mulling pouch:
1/4 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out into the mull and pod coarsely chopped
1/4 inch fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
Bring up to around 60°C, mull for around 30 mins, very gently. Don’t boil. Drink and adjust. You can leave spices in or take out depending on what you fancy.
Don’t like the sound of it? Then try mulled cider instead. While mulled wine is rich and aromatic, mulled cider has the lightness and freshness of fresh apple combined with the comforting warmth and sweetness of baked apple.
Danny Elston, Taproom manager at Sandford Orchards in Devon, believes the key to a good mulled cider starts with, well, good cider. “Cider made from fresh juice, not concentrated, is a must, as it has a more intense apple taste which will not be overpowered once the rest of the ingredients are added,” he advises.
“Choose a good quality cider that has a hint of acidity to balance out the sugar, otherwise you’ll end up with a drink that’s too sweet.”
Calvados (apple brandy) is the perfect addition to give a kick, while intensifying the delicious apple flavour, he says. Other spirits that work well are rum and sloe gin, “which bring a lovely sweetness and warmth without overpowering.”
It’s easy for these hot cocktails to creep into the overly sweet or blow-your-head-off too spicy territory. There’s a fine line to balancing everything out.
“Spice wise: we use slices of orange or apple, or a whole apple or orange studded with cloves,” says Elston, who also includes star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, and fresh slices of ginger in the mix. “Taste as you go, start off drier and you can always add some sugar or honey to sweeten it up.”
Try out the recipe yourself below. Or, that all sounds like a bit too much hardwork, Sandford has made life easier with a mulled cider kit, here.
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 30 mins
1.5 litres of Devon Mist Cider
400ml of cloudy apple juice
A clove-studded apple
A couple of star anise
The zest of an orange
A tablespoon of allspice berries
A cinnamon stick
A good glug of Calvados or Brandy if you want to give it an extra kick
1. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and gently simmer for 30 minutes – do not boil. Then ladle into glass mugs, garnish with apple slices and enjoy!