A Christmas get-together wouldn't be the same without a warming festive drink on a cold night. Here’s how to get it just right

When the carol singers are out in force and there’s a Christmassy feeling everywhere – or even earlier in the run-up if you love the warming, spiced flavours – it’s time to get out the store cupboard spices and make some mulled wine.

So, any old wine will do, right?

There’s a school of thought that says any cheap plonk will do for mulling, and that’s largely true. But for the most palatable results, make sure you choose as fruity a red as possible, and always go for unoaked. Oak or tannin will give you a bitter overtone, no matter how much sugar you add. Also remember that a pricey wine will lose all its notes and nuances during the mulling process, so keep your best bottle for savouring over the season with richer dishes and cheese.

Which spices should I add?

If you’re making traditional British mulled wine (rather than German glühwein or Nordic gløgg), the traditional spices to use are cloves and cinnamon, and you can adjust the quantities according to your personal preference. Just make sure you filter with a muslin cloth before serving. Star anise and vanilla pods are optional additions that can alter the character of your finished product, so experiment with a few combinations before you settle on the perfect blend to serve your guests.

Do I need to add anything else?

Just as some people lace homemade sangria with brandy, you can ramp up the potency of your mulled wine with the addition of a dash or two of a compatible spirit. Rum is warming and seasonal, but it might be more advisable to go for something a little lower in alcohol – trycassis or sloe gin if your wine is good and fruity or, if you've added orange slices during mulling, go for grand marnier, triple sec or curaçao. 

How do I heat it up?

Warm your wine gently to allow the spices to infuse – and to avoid boiling off the alcohol. You want to serve it at a drinkable temperature – not take the roof off an unsuspecting guest’s mouth!

Mulled red wine

The original recipe is still a classic. With a hint of sugar and spice plus a delicate citrus tang, this will help beat the next big freeze.

 

Festive St Clement's punch

There’s no reason why drivers and non-drinkers should be left out in the cold (it’s winter, after all). The usual spices are complemented by zingy ginger and tangy citrus.

 

Spiced mulled cider

A lovely alternative to mulled wine – just make sure you use a still cider, rather than sparkling.

 

Please drink responsibly. For more information, visit drinkaware.co.uk.