‘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.