Few things  are as warming and welcome as mulled wine on a nippy winter’s day. Unlike many of our Christmas traditions, which originate with the Victorians, hot, spiced wine dates at least as far back as medieval times (other sources cite references to a mulled wine equivalent during the time of ancient Greece and the physician Hippocrates), when it is thought spics were added to wine that had gone bad to mask the taste, and that the heated mixture had medicinal properties.

While there are generic suggestions for which herbs and spices are best for a proper, spiced mulled wine, there are few hard and fast rules, and the concoction below can be tweaked and added to for taste. For something extra follow the lead of the Swedes, who add raisins and sometimes almonds as well as a little vodka to their mulled wine equivalent, Glogg.

For each bottle of red wine (serves around 12 glasses) you will need:
2  cinnamon sticks
Pinch  fresh grated nutmeg
12 cloves
1tsp ground ginger
(Other herbs and spice s that can be added include anis, cardamon (crushed) and vanilla)
The juice of one orange
One orange and one lemon cut into segments
4 tablespoons of Demerara sugar or honey
Tablespoon of spirits or fortified wine. Cointreau, Grand Marnier, port or brandy work well.
Muslin bag or 20cm square cloth tied with string
Steel pan

Method
Collect the herbs and spices in the muslin to make a sachet.  Making your own mulling bag will remove the need to strain the mixture at the end
Pour ¼ pint of water and 4 tablespoons of Demerara sugar into a stainless steel pan with the muslin sachet.
Heat until the sugar has dissolved  and you are left with a spiced syrup
Add the wine, fruit juice and fruit pieces and heat through for about 45 minutes but don’t allow the mixture to boil
Add any extra alcohol just before serving

Hints and tips
* Brew up your mulled wine in a stainless steel pan – acids in the wine can react with aluminium pans to leave a metallic taste.
* Do not let the mixture boil – not only will the alcohol evaporate, but boiling can cause the mixture to separate.
* Use half-decent wine -the general consensus may be that cheapish red wine will do but, as Emily Monseur of Berry Bros explains, ‘if you use bad wine you risk spoiling the taste completely.’ Berrys recommend a fruity, full-bodied wine which is not too acidic, such as an Austrialn shiraz, which they retail at around £8.95 a bottle. Obviously the choice depends in part on personal preference, but other suggestions include a Tempranillo from Spain, or Chilean merlot, which are sturdy and fruity but won’t overwhelm the spices.
* Leftover mulled wine, with the fruit strained out, can be stored in the fridge for several days and reheated later.