‘Mulled wine isn’t just a drink – it’s an aroma,’ says Geoff Robinson, counting out his spices behind the bar at Happiness Forgets on Hoxton Square. ‘What I love about making this is that it’s so evocative. It’s a cocktail that triggers happy memories and feelings, and makes me think of family.’

Mulled wine, aka glögg or gluhwein, has northern European origins, and later made its way to the USA and Geoff’s native Canada. Its warming flavours – cloves, cinnamon, star anise – have been spicing up freezing Anglo-Saxon winters for centuries.

‘Today, we’re using jaggery,’ says Geoff, shaving off pieces of the unrefined cane sugar associated with India and the West Indies. ‘The flavour is between caramel and molasses, almost like cake.’ Also intriguing is his addition of Australian wattleseed, which has a hazelnutty, cocoa scent, and adds layers of flavour. You can buy this, and the rest of your spices from specialist food stores – take this opportunity to restock your pantry with fresher, fuller-flavoured ingredients. Geoff swears by Spice Mountain at Borough Market.

When we come to decide what wine to use, the usual advice applies. ‘Don’t pour onto these beautiful spices anything you wouldn’t enjoy drinking for its own sake,’ says Geoff. He chooses Malbec. ‘ Go for something fruit-forward: we don’t need spice here, nor do we want anything too herbaceous, so not merlot’. When you’re doing the actual mulling, try not to boil away all of the alcohol – this winter warmer should be a little potent, as well as deliciously fragrant.

Happiness Forgets mulled wine

Ingredients for two

  • 50g–75g jaggery
  • Zest of half an orange
  • 50ml brandy, such as Rémy Martin
  • 1 tonka bean
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Whole nutmeg
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1/2 tsp wattleseed
  • Two glasses red wine

‘This cocktail isn’t about scientific measures – it’s homely. Add more sugar, or Christmassy fruit such as cranberries’

  • 1

    Zest the orange down to the pith so you get all the aromatic oils.

  • 2

    Muddle it with the jaggery shavings and brandy in a pan over a medium heat. Your kitchen should already smell like Christmas at this stage.

  • 3

    Add the spices: tonka bean, star anise, cloves, the cinnamon stick broken in half or thirds, and about quarter of a whole nutmeg – go easy, as too much can taste bitter.

  • 4

    Slit your vanilla pod by running a knife straight down the middle, then scrape out the seeds and add them to the mixture.

  • 5

    Finally, add the wattleseed, then your wine.

  • 6

    Bring the contents of the pan slowly to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for five minutes.

  • 7

    Serve your mulled wine in a little flask or carafe if you’ve got one. Christmas cheers!

Happiness Forgets, Basement of 8–9 Hoxton Square, London E1 (020 7613 0325). 5.30pm–11pm, Monday–Saturday.


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