Spiced and warming Christmas drinks – The Guardian

From mulled wine to hot buttered rum and ginger beer, here are tipples that’ll make your insides glow this festive season
Waitrose Mulled Wine, Castilla La Mancha, Spain NV 2.25L (£14.99, Waitrose) I’m not sure mulled wine warrants the full Felicity Cloake, “how to make the perfect …” treatment. There’s no real call for precision. It’s supposed to be thrown together, with all the ingredients followed by that imperiously vague cook’s instruction “to taste” rather than measurements to the last millilitre or gram. Still, I suppose there are some essential elements. Or at least, on each occasion I’ve enjoyed mulled wine the pot has had the same key constituents: clove, cinnamon, star anise, oranges and lemons. And wine, of course, although my preference is for port, which brings more body, depth of flavour and that little extra nip of alcohol even if the pot’s been on the stove a while, as well as being sweet enough not to require added sugar. Still, if you can’t be faffed with making your own, Waitrose’s version, based not on port but a sufficiently robust southern Spanish red, does this once-a-year-job perfectly well.
Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum (from £23.15, distillersdirect.com; masterofmalt.com; Waitrose) I understand that mulled wine is not to everyone’s taste; that it’s now strongly redolent of city centre squares filled with rows of sheds with speakers blasting Slade and stacks of slightly stale German lebkuchen. So for Christmas fair and mulled wine refuseniks, I am tapping the sign saying: other spiced drinks are available! Mulled cider, perhaps, which, when heavy on the cinnamon and ginger (and with or without a nip of calvados or ginger liqueur), in my view works better than wine as a seasonally warm and spicy drink, playing on much the same range of flavours you’d find in an apple pie. Or, even better, the king of wintry warm booze, hot buttered rum: melted butter, maple syrup or muscovado sugar, a stick of cinnamon, and a good double measure of rum, which, for an extra aromatic festive hit, could be a spiced version such as the luscious Chairman’s Reserve from St Lucia – a drink that is just as good as late night solo sipper, whatever the season.

Luscombe Hot Ginger Beer (£21.30, 12 x 27cl, luscombe.co.uk; £6.85, 4 x 27cl, abelandcole.co.uk) Ginger is the spice that looms largest in my kitchen. It’s my one concession to homeopathy: that fiery heat must surely have some effect in warding off germs and boosting my immune system. And if that proves to be so much wishful thinking, never mind: the root is also the beating heart of some of great Christmas drinks. First among equals, the King’s Ginger Liqueur (£23.50, 50cl, bbr.com) updated its recipe in 2020, which may account for what I thought was a little extra definition the last time I tried it. But this distillate of ginger and lemon peel is not all that different in zingy effect to the original version created for King Edward VII in 1903, and it’s still the thing I’d have in a hip flask on a frosty Boxing Day walk. My other current favourite ginger drink is entirely alcohol free. Quite apart from being delicious – the infusion of spicy heat balanced with tang – and a fine match for Thai curry, Devon fruit drink makers Luscombe’s Hot Ginger Beer may also be the best, head-clearing hangover antidote I’ve ever tried.
Follow David Williams on Twitter @Daveydaibach


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