28 November 2012

Mull it over

I've mainly only had mulled wine at Christmas markets or as Vin chaud on the side of a mountain. But I'd never made it myself or revealed the mysterious mix of spice, fruit and wine.

So for Christmas last year, I threw a mulled wine and mince pie party with a twist. I made a selection of mulled wines and asked my guests to blind taste the various blends in order to crown the Queen of mulled wines.

All the ingredients for a drunken party!
 My main aim was to test the difference between the shop bought pre-mixed blends and spice sachets and the recipes from scratch, mixed with real spices and fresh fruit. So these were the blends my guests taste tested:

So, who was crowned the Queen?

The outright winner was the mulled wine sachet from Tesco, followed by the bottle of blended mulled wine from Waitrose. The least favourite option was the Delia recipe.

Personally, my favourite my guest's last choice! Probably because it contained some cherry brandy, so was a bit more potent. Plus, for my personal taste, it had a stronger and more natural flavour than the sachet or the blended bottle.

Overall, it was a brilliant party and my house smelt wonderfully of spices and alcohol for several days afterwards. Much better than a candle or a Christmas smelling air freshener.

Top tips for throwing a mulled wine party

1. If you're short on time, the bottled version was the simplest and quickest to prepare. Although I did chop in some slices of orange, so my testers couldn't tell the wines apart from appearance, this isn't essential. From a preparation perspective, the Jamie Oliver recipe was the most time consuming as you had to dissolve some sugar in a small amount of wine and vanilla pods before adding a whole ensemble of ingredients

2. If you're on a budget, then again, the preblended bottle works out the most economical at around £4.00 a bottle. Otherwise, if you're making the stew yourself you can get reasonably priced, strong red wine from Aldi and Lidl. And, since you're adding spices and fruit, I'm not sure the quality makes that much difference

3. If you have fussy tasters, lay off the star anise. I personally love the aniseed taste, but it's not to everyone's palette, so if you're making the Jamie recipe, leave it out

4. Don't over stew the lemons. If you're adding lemons to your liquor, put them in about five minutes before the end. If they cook for too long, they can make the wine bitter

5. Serve your wine in style. I got some pretty Russian tea glasses from Ebay, they really made a difference to the presentation and only cost around £15

6. Don't throw this party if you have a cream carpet

7. Drink sensibly. If you can.


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