Every year, from about now, you’ll probably find you heart sinking as your host ladles out a turbid concoction referred to as “glue fine” or “van show”. It contrives to be cloyingly sweet, yet somehow bitter, mouth-puckeringly sour and much nastier than the sum of its ingredients. It will, at first, be scaldingly hot, searing you through its thin, plastic cup, quite possibly causing a painful spillage, then become quite suddenly uninvitingly tepid, and it will have bits in it. Don’t do this to people you like; here’s how to serve up a genuine treat.
Take 1 bottle of Manor Wines‘ (look, it is our blog) Vicuña Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. It’s the perfect wine for mulling, with plenty of big, fruity flavours. Whatever you do, don’t use wine you wouldn’t drink un-mulled.
1 bay leaf
1 stick of cinnamon (avoid ground spices if possible or the result will be cloudy: it should be a wonderful deep, clear, glossy red!)
1 lemon, sliced
1 orange, sliced
Sugar to taste; less not more, this is meant to be for grown-ups
1 small glass of brandy (Spanish is good here, inexpensive with a great toffee flavour that works well). It’ll be delicious without, but this does give extra depth and pungency.
Put the wine, brandy and sugar in a covered pan (mix it in so it doesn’t catch on the bottom) with the cloves, bay leaf, cinnammon, lemon and orange. Heat and simmer gently for a minute then remove from the stove and allow to steep for half an hour or so (still with the lid on). Don’t let it sit much longer than this or you’ll get bitter flavours from the citrus fruits. If you are mulling the wine in advance, take the orange and lemon out and cover the pan.
Strain, adjust the sweetness and re-heat if necessary, just up to a simmer. There’s nothing to gain by boiling it and you’ll just drive off the alcohol and the more delicate flavours.
Serve it in something with a handle, preferably thick enough to keep the drink warm.