Mulled Wine

A Brief History of Mulled Wines and a Recipe to Try

mulled-wineMany years ago, before the days of central heating and carpeted homes, mulls were a very popular drink on cold winter days. There were no electric kettles. You couldn’t just quickly make a cup of tea or coffee. However, a warming glass of mulled wine or mead was possible. The word "mulled" simply means heated and spiced. It doesn’t have to apply to wine. Many other alcoholic drinks can be mulled such as mead, cider or even beer. Mulled wine is however a traditional favourite and goes well with the various festivities and celebrations at the end of the year.

Mulled wines actually have a very long history. Back in medieval times mulled wines were called Ypocras or Hipocris, named after the great physician Hippocrates. They were then thought to be very healthy. In fact, with water in those days being rather unsanitary, wine was likely a more healthy option, and so these mulls or heated drinks quite likely did keep people healthy through the colder months.

Later on, in the 1500s, some cookbooks mentioned ways of mulling "Clarrey", or Bordeaux. These recipes usually used ingredients such as cinnamon, honey, cardamom, and galingale and would use a French wine. In Victorian England, Mulled wine was very popular with a favourite being Negus. This was a type of mulled wine which was even served at children’s birthday parties.
Nowadays, mulled wine is of course a favourite at many Christmas and New Year parties and with the huge range of alcoholic drinks now available, interest has re-awakened in this old fashioned way of drinking beer, cider mead and wine as well as many others.

Mulled wine recipes today are so varied and there are different styles all over the world. Some mulled wine recipes favour using white wine, others red. Some add just a few spices, others pour in oranges, cloves, spices and fruits for colour and interest! Your mulled wine or any other mulled drink is only going to be limited by your imagination!

Any beverages may be made into a mull and there is but one factor to observe; the temperature. Alcohol boils at a much lower temperature than water and will evaporate if the mull is allowed to boil. It is important therefore to use a thermometer all the time while you are heating a mull. The critical temperature is 60°c or 140° f. Below this temperature the mull will not be warm enough, Above it, it loses its alcohol.

The traditional spices used to flavour a mull are bruised root ginger, whole cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. These added together with the thinly pared rind of a lemon and its juice will make a basic mull, although it is not necessary to use them all together  at the same time and you are by no means limited to just those. Brown or white sugar may be used for sweetening, also honey or golden syrup.

As I have already said, there are a great many variations and recipes. Some include baking an orange in which cloves have been stuck and then adding the orange segments to the mull. Others include a baked apple, the flesh of which is mashed and added to the mull. A sound basic recipe follows…

Mulled Wine Recipe

  1. Thinly pare the lemon and place the parings in a saucepan, add the ginger, cloves and one or two table spoonsful of brown or white sugar
  2. Pour in the wine, place the pan on a low heat and stir gently but steadily to dissolve the sugar and distribute the flavours
  3. Check the temperature constantly and when 60°C is reached, turn off the heat. Stir in the lemon juice, strain out the solids and return the pan to the heat.
  4. When the temperature again reaches 60°C pour the mulled wine at once into pre-heated glasses and serve.