This may be anathema to Decanter’s experts, but I’m looking for the ultimate recipe for mulled wine. Can you help?
Jenny Young, Newcastle

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Mulled wine

Fiona Beckett replies: So long as you’re not mulling one of the finest bottles in your cellar (which I’m sure you’re not), it’s not anathema at all. That said I’m not sure there’s an ‘ultimate’ recipe – it’s a question of personal taste. I personally think you need to add something sweet like a good slug of vintage character or late bottled vintage Port, or a dash of Grand Marnier or Cointreau. I also try to keep most of my spices whole, otherwise the mulled wine can taste powdery – so use cinnamon sticks rather than ground cinnamon, for example.

The two key things are to use a drinkable if inexpensive wine for a base (something like an own-label Corbières is ideal) and not to boil the liquid at any point, otherwise you’ll burn off the alcohol and make your mulled wine taste bitter.

This is my recipe, to serve 8-10:

Ingredients

  • 2 bottles medium-bodied red wine
  • 1 unwaxed orange studded with 6 cloves
  • a few strips of zest from an unwaxed lemon
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • lightly crushed
  • a little freshly grated nutmeg
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 100ml orange liqueur
  • a few orange slices

Method

  1. Pour the wine into a large saucepan and add 500ml cold water
  2. Add the orange and lemon zest, spices and sugar and heat gently until almost boiling
  3. Reduce the heat as low as possible – the liquid should barely tremble – and simmer for about 30 minutes so the spices infuse
  4. Add the orange liqueur and orange slices and reheat without boiling
  5. Ladle into small cups or glasses to serve