Paige’s Mulled Wine: bring me bread and bring me wine

As promised to folk on Twitter, coming to you live from a southbound train, until I lose my wifi connection somewhere in the Yorkshire Dales. If you’re not fond of my notes with 52 million little asides, proving why I am not a cookbook writer, there will be a tidy recipe version at the end.

This method and the barebones of the recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver in Jamie Cooks Christmas, but don’t let that stop you.

– 1 bottle of a strong decent-but-not-pricey red wine: Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon is my choice. I also don’t see why this wouldn’t work with a non-alcoholic wine, but I wouldn’t do it with grape juice unless you’d like to melt your teeth off.
– 1/2 lemon: unwaxed if possible, or wash it and scrub it really well first to get the wax off.
– 1 clementine/satsuma: if you can’t get one, 1/2 an orange will do.
– 100 g (a little less than 1/2 c) sugar: I go for a mix of mostly granulated/caster sugar with a bit of demerara.
– 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/2 in/1 cm piece peeled ginger root
– Spices! Feel free to improvise. I usually go with:
– 1/2 stick cinnamon ((Fun fact: in the UK, this is the softer ‘true’ cinnamon–in the US, most of the spices labeled as cinnamon are cassia, which is stronger in flavor, so I also throw in some ground ‘true’ cinnamon for a bit more punch.))
– 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg: I use a microplane grater for this, from whole, but you can buy ground, just use a bit more.
– 1/2 tsp mixed spice: I’d say chai masala or pumpkin pie spice would probably be okay to sub, to taste, though they’d be a bit different.
– 2 cloves
– 2 crushed cardamom pods
But you could throw in a bit of whole black peppercorn or cayenne pepper, allspice, cinnamon red hots or candied ginger (adjust your sugar down accordingly), mace, and/or star anise (this last is not my cuppa, but ymmv).

– paring knife
– some kind of citrus juicer: unless you want to be all chef-tastic and use your hands, which I do not recommend if you have any cuts, hangnails, or scrapes.
– medium size (1 liter plus) saucepan: non-stick is probably best.
– wooden or silicone spoon
– Pyrex/heat-safe glass measuring cup
– metal tea strainer/some other kind of fine METAL sieve: No matter how cool you think the liquid is, it WILL melt plastic. I may have found this out the hard way.

Put your sugar and spices into the cold saucepan, and mix them up a little to get them sorta even across the pan.
Get the rind, with as little as possible white pith, off your lemon and toss it into your saucepan, then juice the lemon and pour the juice into the saucepan too.
Do the same deal with your orange. If you have a clementine/satsuma and are using a paring knife, it’s really hard to get the peel off without slicing into the fruit; I generally juice first, then peel the remnants of the fruit off and bin them before scraping some of the pith off the inside of the peel to get the oils free. Some orange pith won’t harm this recipe as it’s not nearly as bitter as lemon.
Stir again, adding your ginger and your vanilla. Also add a small slug of wine to make the liquid pretty colored. If this doesn’t cover your sugar entirely, add a bit more wine until it does.
Put your saucepan on the stove over medium-high heat, until it comes to a boil, stirring periodically. Once it boils, keep it boiling, stirring gently the whole time, for four to five minutes–it’s basically a fancied up simple syrup.
After those four to five minutes, turn off your heat and let the syrup sit until it’s not bubbling up boiling any longer (probably just a minute or so).
Put your sieve or strainer over your Pyrex cup, then very carefully–and I mean this, hot sugar syrup burns like hell if you get it on you–pour the syrup through the strainer so all the rind and spices get caught.
Set the strainer somewhere safe so the stuff you’ve caught can cool down before you throw it out.

Now what? Well, the genius of this recipe is multipartite:
– you can make the syrup ahead of time,
– the sweetness is relatively evenly distributed throughout your drink, AND
– it preserves more of the alcohol in your wine because you’re not subjecting the whole bottle to high heat.

If you’re making ahead, just let the syrup cool to room temperature before pouring it into a sturdy airtight container. It’ll keep in the fridge for several days, and then you can just do the steps below when you’re ready to serve. Alternatively, you can use it for other tasty things like cocktails, poached pears, or hell, on your waffles or ice cream, should these things need some Festive Joy.

If you’re making it for Right Now or the very near future, pour your strained syrup back into your saucepan (it doesn’t need to be cool, just be careful if it’s not). Gently empty the rest of the bottle of wine into the saucepan and very gently stir. Put the heat back on, low this time, and keep gently stirring. You’re going to want the wine to get to just a simmer (that is, little bubbles starting around the edge of the pan).

That is about the right time to serve it forth, as ye olde cookery bookes say, in either mugs or heat-proof glasses. You can, I suppose, leave the saucepan ticking at just about that temperature if you’ve got guests who are terminally late, but I would check it periodically as the last thing you want is for the wine to boil.

Now, if you’re on your own with no one watching, you can even take the syrup and the wine and heat a mug or a Pyrex measuring cup up in the microwave, maybe 15 mL or so to 175 mL wine? Play around and see. Though be careful, again, not to boil it.

(thx to Simmer)

  • Prep Time: 10m
  • Cook Time: 7m
  • Total Time: 17m
  • Serves: 4


  • 1 bottle of strong red wine
  • 1/2 unwaxed/washed medium lemon
  • 1 clementine or satsuma, or 1/2 orange
  • 100 grams granulated sugar (US folk: just under 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 piece of peeled root ginger (1/2 in/1 cm long)
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (from whole if possible)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cardamom pods, slightly crushed


  1. Mix sugar and spices together, dry, in a cold saucepan.
  2. Peel (avoiding the pith) and juice the lemon and orange. Add the juice and peel to the cold saucepan and stir until evenly distributed.
  3. Add ginger piece and vanilla extract to the cold saucepan and stir once more.
  4. Add a slug of wine, adding additional if juice doesn't fully cover the sugar.
  5. Put the saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring with a wooden or silicone spoon, until the mixture comes to a boil.
  6. Let the syrup mixture boil for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring periodically.
  7. Turn off the heat and let the syrup come down from the boil. Set a metal strainer into a heat-proof glass measuring jug and carefully strain the spices and rind out of the syrup. Set the strainer aside and let the contents cool before throwing away.
  8. Carefully pour the syrup back into the saucepan, then add the rest of the wine.
  9. Warm over low heat, stirring gently to combine, until the wine comes to a very low simmer. Serve immediately in small mugs.

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