Mulled Wine and Cider time

It’s cold and dark outside, the Christmas party season is in full swing and there is no better way to warm your guests than with a glass or two of mulled wine.

The festive aromas = Christmas

The festive aromas = Christmas (Flickr pic by Charles Beldon)

I had my first glass of festive sugar and spice this year at The Pen & Wig (£3). It was a Christmas party too big to fit inside the always busy pub and so we had to brave the bleak mid-winter in the beer garden. And what better way to stave off the cold than with a warm glass of mulled wine.

I have always loved the stuff. It’s something about the aroma of spices, sweetness of sugar and richness of red wine, all brought together and warmed over a stove, which combines to produce the king of winter warmers.

Mulling; to heat, sweeten, and flavour with spices, has been around a long time. In days gone by, wine went bad pretty quickly due to poor bottling techniques. So during the Renaissance period, spices began to be added – as they were to many things at the time – to both delay spoilage and make spoiled products taste palatable. And since young wines were commonly bottled during the early fall, mulling (which originally only meant to ruminate or ponder) was necessary by Yuletide as some were beginning to turn to the dark side, and hence the consumption of mulled wine became a winter tradition.

Mulled wine, aka vin chaud, gluhwein, glögg, vin fiert, vin brulé, quentão, is drunk in most European countries in some form or another around Christmas.  But it’s the German and Nordic peoples that go mad for it. They so love the stuff they have ‘glogg parties’ where they scoff down gingerbread, blue cheese and rice-pudding with their favourite spiced wine tipple.

For those who love mulled wine as much as our continental cousins you can go one step further than simply drinking it, you can bathe in it. Try washing in Glögg shower gel from Lush and I promise you’ll want to shower in nothing else over the festive season. Having a flatmate who works in Lush, I was lucky enough to receive a bottle recently and for the next two weeks I was mullered every morning as I effectively showered in my favourite Christmas drink. And don’t worry about smelling like you’ve finished off a vat before breakfast. I didn’t have anyone come up to me worrying I had become a raging alcoholic in the two weeks I used Glögg (although they may have been thinking it).

But after the joys of showering in it I still prefer imbibing. Here’s a simple but effective recipe for mulled wine perfection, with a kick of sloe gin, courtesy of BBC Food:


  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 60g/2oz demerara sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • grated nutmeg
  • 1 orange, halved
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 60ml/2fl oz sloe or damson gin (optional)


  1. Put the wine in a saucepan with the orange, sugar, bayleaf and the spices.
  2. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Taste to see if you want the wine sweeter, and add more sugar to taste.
  3. Off the heat, stir in the sloe or damson gin if you are using it.
  4. Strain into heatproof glasses and serve at once.

However, as a West Country boy, I couldn’t write a piece on mulling at Christmas time without singing the praises of mulled cider. It’s a drink that has really taken off in the pubs and cider boats of Bristol in the last five years and I can firmly say it is on a par with any mulled wine.  As you can see in Nigella’s recipe below (she starts on the cider about two minutes in) a glug or two or rum gives the cider a depth and boozy kick most chilled party goers will appreciate.

Here’s to mulling over Christmas!

Mine’s a pint.


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