Dial up the festive cheer with a big batch of Vanilla Mulled Wine – our handy hack is to use the slow cooker, but you can also make this on the stove.
Mulled wine is an ancient European festive tradition, but there’s no reason you can’t sip it Down Under in July. Nothing could be cosier for your winter entertaining than a big batch of mulled wine – the fragrant scent of red wine, citrus and spice bubbling away in a pot evokes all those Christmas Markets in the Northern Hemisphere. We’ve given our recipe a Nordic twist with vanilla vodka, which gives it a hint of soft sweetness. So gather your friends, tune up for the carols and get cosy (don’t forget those kitsch Christmas jumpers!) to celebrate Christmas in July.
Ingredients (serves 8)
375mL cranberry juice
250mL orange juice
2 vanilla beans, split
2 cinnamon sticks or quills
2 whole star anise
125mL Absolut Vanilla Vodka
1 orange, sliced
TIP: To make non-alcoholic mulled wine, use McGuigan Zero Shiraz and swap the vodka for 125mL water.
The tradition of mulling wine with spices dates back at least 2000 years, and like many great things, its invention is often attributed to the ancient Greeks. They called it hippocras, taken from Hippocrates – the father of medicine – as it was warm, spicy and thought to be healthy. It’s no surprise that the ancient Romans were fans, too, given their conspicuous love of red wine. They called their version conditum paradoxium or ‘spiced wine surprise,’ and drank it at winter solstice festivities. As they conquered Europe, the pleasure of sipping warm mulled wine spread across the continent, and by Victorian times it was firmly associated with Christmas. Charles Dickens was said to be a great fan, calling it the ‘smoking bishop’ in A Christmas Carol.
Historically, herbs and spices were used as natural sweeteners to make leftover wine taste better. These days we have the luxury of always having great wine at our fingertips, but there is no need to splurge for your mulled wine when a good everyday red will work perfectly. You want something dark, fruity and full bodied like McGuigan Black Label Red Blend. A classic red packed with flavours of cherry, spicy plum and blackberry, it has a touch of vanilla, cinnamon, pepper and caramel that will complement the whole spices.
Inspired by the Swedish version, known as glögg, we’ve added Absolut Vanilla Vodka to our mulled wine recipe. Naturally flavoured with vanilla, it has sweet notes of butterscotch, which, combined with vanilla beans adds a subtle depth of flavour to the mix.
Wondering what food to serve with your mulled wine? The Swedes pair theirs with ginger biscuits, but traditional fruit mince pies or crackers topped with full-flavoured cheese like gorgonzola or vintage cheddar will also work wonders.
The secret to mulled wine is cooking it low and slow for maximum flavour. A slow cooker makes this easy, but if you’re cooking in a pot on the stove, make sure you don’t let the wine mixture boil or the alcohol will start to evaporate and the sugars will caramelise and become bitter. To avoid a bitter-tasting brew, don’t add orange slices to the mix too early – adding them at the end lets them gently infuse into the mixture and keeps them looking fresh for the garnish. Likewise, add the vodka just before serving so you don’t lose any of the aromatic vanilla flavour.
Think punch is just for summer? Think again. This red wine punch made with malbec and rum is great for entertaining in winter too. Prefer to stick with the warm and spicy theme? We hear you! How about a good ol’ hot toddy made with Wild Turkey or a sweet mulled cider. Or continue the Christmas in July theme and whip up a creamy eggnog with Sailor Jerry Caribbean Rum which can be sipped hot or cold and served with cookies, gingerbread or chocolate cake.