Recipe: Mull with OJ, spice and all things nice

Georgina MacRae shares her tips for the perfect Christmas mull

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Mulled wine, with orange slices and spices simmers in a pan.
Orange juice is the unexpected ingredient to take your mull to the next level

Congratulations, you’ve discovered the collection of secret ingredients to make your mull better than ever before!

The internet will tell you to use sugar, a pricey spice-kit, wine, and perhaps a bit of lemon zest. But here’s some alternative top-tips (and a little about why they’re tip-top):

1.  The OJ.

Citrus flavours are classic in mull, but popular recipes often don’t include it. I suggest using orange juice and raisins (or sultanas) instead of sugar – it’ll taste more natural and fruity than sugar. Let OJ add a citrus flavour to your drink, changing it from a deep red to a wonderful purply opaque colour. 

And what’s best, it’s cheap; orange juice from concentrate is actually better than fresh for mulled wine, because you want to get as much flavour as possible. Start with just a splash, and taste-test your way to deliciousness! You could even try it with 50:50 – I recently made a mull with two bottles of red wine and about 500ml conc. OJ, which seemed a bit too much at the time. It was still delicious, but very orangey. 

2.  Tea!

How nice to find that such a British classic actually goes swimmingly in a mull. Think of the bitter savoury taste of black-tea-leaves, and how that will add a depth and edge to your mull. You don’t want a sugary, orangey liquid. No, you want a full-bodied, aromatic mull which gets people going ‘mmm’ and ‘aah’. The key here is tea. Brew a cup of your everyday tea and extract those tannins. This helps make the mull acidic enough to match and blend with the sugars you’ve got bubbling away.

3.  Cloves.

For those of you who don’t know, cloves are “the aromatic flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae, Syzygium aromaticum” (thanks, Google). They’re about one centimetre long, black and shaped like a fat grain of rice with a little ball on the end. And, they pack quite a punch – Spiceography names them ‘one of the world’s most powerful flavours’!

Cloves are pungent, strong and have a wonderful warmth to them (hopefully you can see by now that these are the perfect qualities for a nice warming mull). Again, try adding just a couple and add more if you like the flavour kick they provide. Unfortunately, solid cloves will take a long while, maybe an hour, for their flavour to seep out. So, if you don’t mind the grit, use ground cloves.

4.  More spice!

Following cloves, I want to do a shout-out to cinnamon sticks, star-anise and nutmeg. We’ve talked about taste, so let’s talk about looks. The final, crucial ingredients for your mull are all the spices you want (I recommend you try allspice and cumin). The necessary cinnamon and star anise are especially great, because you can buy solid ones and they’re festive and pretty. When you’re aiming to impress, serve a glass of mull with a slice of orange, a cinnamon stick and a star anise floating in it. Then grate some fresh nutmeg on top of each steaming cup! Perfect.

Your kitchen now smells amazing and everybody who gets to drink some is overcome with love for you.

For those of you who don’t feel like getting merry, mulled apple juice is just as delicious as mulled wine. It might take a long time, but it’s absolutely worth it. Apple juice, cinnamon, star anise… maybe some ground ginger? Cloves if you want, and leave it to brew for a long time, ‘till you love the smell and taste. There you go, you’re welcome.

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