I don't know why, but this Christmas I seem to be obsessed with mulled drinks. It's not even Christmas yet (one week to go!) but I've made, and happily consumed, various mulled wines and ciders.
Before this year, I'd only every made it once, I think about five years ago. It was when I'd first moved to Ireland. As a Saffer, I'd actually never had mulled wine. When your Christmas falls in the middle of a very hot summer, hot drinks aren't exactly the go-to refreshment of choice. Anyway, the idea of mulled wine was something novel to me spending my first Christmas in the middle of an Irish winter, so I bought these mulled wine teabag things that had popped up in the stores. Sadly, my mulled wine turned out to be overwhelmingly shite.
There was very little spiced flavour, and the wine itself was more like... well, heated wine. Not what I was expecting and I was left rather disappointed.
The next time I had mulled wine was at one of the annual Christmas fairs. This was a much better experience, but still not something that made me want to add it to my Christmas menu.
But then I discovered something about mulled wine the same way I discovered something about cheesecake. Turns out, I like my own-made cheesecake and mulled wine. Yeah I know, that sounds quite braggish, but it comes down to the recipe and ingredients.
After being asked to do a recipe for a mulled wine for another site, I did my usual research then went out and bought my bits and pieces, came home and brewed up my first "from scratch" mulled wine, there would be no teabags this time! And, DAMN, it was good! That sparked my 2014 mulled drinks obsession.
While trying other flavours and spices, it occurred to me that I should try using my favourite berry cider. Why should we only use apple cider or wine? Berries lend themselves perfectly to being spiced with cloves, cinnamon and star anise, and of course, with a good dose of orange too.
So, I went and bought my favourite Berry Bulmers' and tried it. Clearly I was happy, otherwise I wouldn't be posting a recipe. Duh. But I did change things up a little bit from my apple cider recipe. You can, of course, try either recipe with either cider; a hint of ginger is lovely with the berry flavours. Either way, I'm definitely going to be adding mulled drinks in some shape and form to my Christmas menu each year. The house smells amazing when you have a pot on the stove steaming away, and it's perfect when friends visit to help warm their fingers and toes.
If you're not fortunate enough to have Berry Bulmers' where you are, any berry cider will do, just make sure it's not cheap and nasty. I think a lot of mulled drinks are "meh" just because a cheap drink has been used thinking that it won't matter once it's heated and flavoured, but that's definitely not the case! If you wouldn't drink it normally, don't use it in a recipe. Simples.
I know it says to serve over ice, but I promise you, Berry Bulmers' is just as good steaming and deliciously spiced in the middle of winter!
Mulled Berry Cider
60ml Cranberry or Other Berry Juice
2 Tbsp Caster Sugar
Peel & Juice from 1 Orange
2 Cinnamon Sticks
2 Star Anise
1 tsp Grenadine Syrup, optional
1l Berry Cider
Small Handful Dried Cranberries, optional
- Combine first 6 ingredients & grenadine, if using, in a large heavy saucepan set over medium high heat
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and leave to reduce by half
- Once syrup has reduced, add the berry cider and dried cranberries, if using, and leave to heat just until steaming
- Tip: Don't bring it to a boil, the flavours have developed while reducing the syrup, so you just want to heat the cider enough so that it's hot, but you're not losing any of the booze!
- If not serving immediately, reduce heat to low to keep warm
- Depending on the cider you use, you may want your mulled cider sweeter, so taste and add more sugar if necessary
- Enjoy while piping hot!