Mulled drinks

The first thing that might come to mind when thinking of mulled wine, is a vat of spiced wine on someone’s stove top, where everyone part of the dinner party brings the cheapest red and dumps it into the pot for everyone to have near infinite merriment.

Being the person who usually brings the best eggnog you’ve ever had, I decided to try my hand at mulled wine. Something different for a change.

In my internet sleuthing, I came across this article by the BBC, which gave me heaps of inspiration to try out some new drinks! Not just red wine, but mulled white wine, and mulled cider (alcoholic or non, your choice).

I will give the recipes and save most of the pictures for below the text. My partner and I taste tested each of them. Keep in mind that these recipes can be double/tripled/etc. I made small batches to test out the flavours and ratios. All recipes were heated on low for 15 minutes, and I put all the spices in a muslin bag. The BBC website said to let it all sit for 30 minutes after heating – I did do that but I found that letting it sit overnight gave the best results.

Mulled White Wine

  • 1 bwhitewineottle (750 mL) of white wine (I used the cheapest Viognier I could find!)
  • 1 baby lemon (or half a regular sized lemon)
  • half a bartlett pear
  • half a regular orange
  • 1 small sprig of rosemary (pictures below)
  • 3 tiny sprigs of thyme
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp bitter orange peel
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup elderflower cordial

Mulled Cider

  • 2 cans of Magnmagnerscidersers Cider (500 mL each can; 1 apple cider and 1 pear cider)
  • 1 pear
  • 1 Pink Lady apple
  • 12 cranberries
  • 2 baby lemons
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole nutmeg seeds
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 12 whole allspice seeds
  • 1 tsp bitter orange peel
  • 8 dried juniper berries
  • small pieces of ginger root
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup honey


redwineMulled Red Wine

  • 1 bottle (750 mL) of red wine (I used the cheapest Merlot I could find!)
  • 1/2 red delicious apple
  • 1/2 orange
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole nutmeg seeds
  • 12 whole allspice seeds
  • 1/2 tsp bitter orange peel
  • 12 dried juniper berries
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 whole star anise seed
  • 12 cranberries
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup honey

After all was said and done, we liked the mulled cider the best and will be making that for Christmas dinner! We also quite liked the mulled white, and found the mulled red to taste a bit like a winter sangria. Which was not bad, but it wasn’t as good as the other two. We also felt the cider would match more of the dishes we were serving with dinner (beer slow cooked ham, tourtiere, ginger roasted carrots, and gingerbread cookies).

Also, since this cider was 5% and most wines are 14%, this won’t get you nearly as smashed, even with the added brandy. Unless of course, you double the brandy concentration. ;) The cider overall tasted fresher. You could use any cider you want, but I recommend using a drier cider, since you are adding sugar to it.


Cider (local and import)

Working at a private liquor store has taught me that I know nothing about cider. Wanting to understand this craze was my mission and I have since discovered a few things about myself, as well as opened up my palette. ;)

First things first, most ciders are divided into dry or sweet categories, similar to wine. This makes sense because wine is made from grapes and cider is usually made from apples or pears. The thing that I like the most about cider is that it has a more “grown-up” taste to it than coolers (or BC “Growers” ciders, yuck) and also, it does not leave you feeling bloated like beer tends to. A drier cider will taste somewhat like a dry white wine, without the acidic taste sometimes found in the finish (obviously, that’s going to depend on the quality and varietals used to produce the wine but need a base of comparison for those who have not adventured into ciders, yet), whereas a sweeter cider can range from tasting like a light soda to fruit juice.

I purchased 6 ciders from my liquor store, 5 were local and 1 was an import. From L to R, the ciders are:

  1. Tod Creek Apple Cider (Vancouver Island, BC)
  2. Rekorderlig Elderflower Pear Cider (Sweden)
  3. Leftfield Big Dry Apple Cider (Okanagan, BC)
  4. Leftfield Little Dry Apple Cider (Okanagan, BC)
  5. Tod Creek Apple Cider “Bamfield Bound” Semi-dry with Maple Syrup (Vancouver Island, BC)
  6. Tod Creek Apple Cider “Mala-hop” Dry with Triple Hops (Vancouver Island, BC)

I did a side-by-side comparison tasting at home and these are my tasting notes:

  1. Smells like apple juice but has a dry, simple, clean flavour.
  2. Smells like pear, tastes very sweet, reminds me of a more sophisticated Growers.
  3. Has no discernible smell, rich apple flavour, dry, slight tartness, complex.
  4. Smells like sweet apple juice, tastes sweet apple juice and more tartness than the LF Big Dry.
  5. Does not have a strong maple syrup flavour but does taste like a “semi-dry”, as it tasted equally as dry and it did sweet.
  6. Smells like hops, tastes dry, has a gentle hop aftertaste.

After this endeavour, I decided I greatly preferred sweet ciders to dry ciders, and that I also prefer pear ciders to apple ciders (if you are anywhere near Montreal, there’s a fantastic ice pear cider made by a couple living on a rural Québéc farm, which they sell at Marché Jean-Talon!)

To further quench my thirst for (mostly pear) cider, I also tried the following ciders after my home sampler:

  • Magner’s Pear Cider: dry, simple flavour, tasted like slightly flavoured soda water
  • Sir Perry Pear Cider: tasted fine at first but had this awful aftertaste that tasted slightly sour and made me think I was drinking effervescent urine. We poured it down the drain.
  • Kopparberg Pear Cider: YUM. Sweet without being as sweet as the Rekorderlig, had a bit of a cream soda aftertaste.
  • Rekorderlig Apple & Blackcurrant Pear Cider: Very sweet, complex fruit flavour, pairs with desserts nicely.
  • Sea Cider Bramble Bubbly: Slight berry flavoured cider, medium sweet/dryness.

I may not enjoy cider as much as I enjoy beer or cocktails, but if I am looking for something cold that requires no preparation, I might reach for a can of cider in with my beers for a summer’s eve.