The two best drinks to warm up your winter’s day are undoubtedly mulled wine and mulled apple cider, but which is better?
Buying these from the shop shelves or your local bar means the quality will vary from place to place. But make these drinks yourself and then there’s plenty of leeway to customise a unique and delicious mulled blend that’s perfect for you.
Here are a couple of tips to make sure you get the best out of both:
There’s only two types of excellent wine when it comes to mulling.
If you want full bodied, spicy, and stuffed with hard-hitting flavours, then you need a new world Shiraz. Make sure you buy one that’s medium bodied or medium-full so you still get that attractive smoothness after heating it up. You can buy one of these lovely wines for as little as £5 per bottle. Infuse this particularly spicy red with bitter orange, clove and cinnamon.
On the other hand, if you’re a fruity-sweet wine lover then buy yourself a Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais (often a Gamay grape wine). Both these have a luxuriously smooth texture – even at around £4-£8 – but it’s the cherry and red berry fruits that really sell this wine; they’re frankly delicious. Infuse these wines with nutmeg, ginger, lemon slices and sweet tangerine. Or, if you fancy something particularly different, add in some blackberries or a drop of Cassis liqueur – that gives it something very, very different.
Once you’ve bought your wine, pour a couple of bottles generously into a pan and bring to a boil, adding in your spices and fruits. A top tip is to taste as you go so you get the best flavours in there. When it begins to boil, turn it off, leave for a minute or two and then serve.
Often for those of us who prefer something a little sweeter at Christmas, mulled cider can open up a world of opportunity.
If you like your cider dry, go for a still cider with lots of crisp green apple flavour. Add in some honey, black pepper and some pomegranate seeds for a particularly interesting blend; alternatively replace the pomegranate with slices of pear which give the mulled cider a lovely mellow sweetness, perfect with the dry, spicy base.
However my personal mulled cider recipe of choice is sweet, fruity and gorgeously smooth. Any cider will do, but if you can find a lightly sparkling cider with notes of vanilla and sweet red apple that would work a dream. Match this cider with vanilla extracts, a hefty handful of orange slices (or peel), maple syrup and – if you’re feeling adventurous – a small glug of Calvados brandy. Absolutely staggering flavours.
Heat and serve in the same way as you would mulled wine.
So which comes out best?
Both are Christmas staples but, for me, the classic and popular mulled wine is still the winner.
Although wine has a rich character by nature, which only restricts what you can infuse with it, it’s that rich flavour that makes it an icon of Christmas. As long as you’re buying a good medium-bodied red then you’ve still got lots of room to play with the flavours.
Cider gives you more room to have fun with it, but unless you’re willing to do the legwork to trial and error different blends, you may struggle to find one that really suits your taste.
Wine, on the other hand, packs enough of its original flavour to make sure the spices and fruits it goes with only accentuate the taste all the better.
Best of all, you can pick up a brilliant mulled wine for incredibly good value. In comparison, a very nice mulled cider often comes in smaller bottles, meaning you probably need a few bottles, and it usually retails more expensively too.
If you don’t have the time to create some of your own mulled wine or cider, visits The Tasting Room which has an excellent selection of both!
Posted by – Ben Franks
Edited by – Laura Thompson