Hot stuff for cold winters

Steaming, spicy cocktails from cider to toddies will keep chills at bay.

As the evenings draw in and the cold takes hold, for many of us there is nothing better than a glass of steaming mulled wine. And if the intoxicating mix of wine, spices and aromas makes you wish it was available all year round, you're in luck. Mulls, toddies, hot cocktails and punches are gaining in popularity, with more venues than ever offering something to warm us up.

The Albion in Bristol serves a popular warm cider, Lutyens restaurant in London offers a hot cosmopolitan, while the Hix restaurants in London and Lyme Regis have created a series of three Beefeater Gin hot cocktails. Even nightclubs are getting in on the act: Maddox in London's Mayfair offers the Never Summer, a cognac and vanilla liqueur-based cocktail. All of them are fun, warming and are often not as boozy as your average cocktail.

Tony Conigliaro, a drinks consultant who runs 69 Colebrooke Row and the Zetter Townhouse in London, says the heat allows us to taste the flavours and infused spices more. "Heat affects your perception of sweetness, and with the volatiles evaporating, so the alcohol notes evaporate, leaving more of the flavour notes," he says. "It's also fairly season-specific, the flavours that work in hot cocktails tend to be the autumn or winter ones."

A fellow master bartender, Tristan Stephenson, believes the herbs and spices have a strong influence on us. "There's a nostalgic effect from them," he says. "Often the spices used with the drinks have an association with Christmas, so you immediately enter into the festive spirit."

Stephenson is at the forefront of those flying the flag for mulled drinks and hot cocktails. He runs the London bar Purl, which is itself named after a sort of mulled beer mixed with gin, which became popular from the end of the 17th-century. Customers of today have found a new taste for it.

His latest venture is The Whistling Shop, which has just opened its "sauce bar," an area inside the venue dedicated to warm winter drinks steeped in history and spices. They serve a hot toddy variant of egg nog with matcha tea, powdered chocolate and whisky, and wassail – a brandy and apple-based drink, inspired by his trips "wassailing" in his native Cornwall. There is also The Flip, a variant of egg nog, which finds its routes in the colonial US in the 17th-century.

"There would be a punchbowl on the bar; in it there would be rum, spices, sugar, molasses," he says. "Then someone would take a hot poker [sometimes called a "loggerhead" or a "flip dog"] from the fire and plunge it into the punchbowl. That caramelises the sugar in there and creates a bitterness from the burning sugar. It gets warm to drink and it feels aerated."

If you want to impress your friends with your flip skills, it is still possible to pick up a loggerhead on eBay; Stephenson uses what he calls an "electric salamander" given to him by a friend at the Fat Duck restaurant.

While the renewed interest in mulling is perhaps helped by the modern thirst for hot drinks, the historical connection is clear. In earlier times, people would have relied on drinks to warm up. There are a couple of references to Purl in Dickens (he describes it as "a creature comfort"), while he and Swift wrote about "the Bishop," which is a sort of mulled port with fruit (the Cardinal is a mulled claret and the Pope is mulled burgundy).

Anistatia Miller, a drinks historian who, along with Jared Brown, wrote Spirituous Journey: A History of Drink, believes it goes back to the old Grecian or Chinese way of delivering medicines. "The monks in monasteries... would be asked to make these drinks. Later on, with things such as Purl, people got the idea that you could drink that way. And why not? It's cold here."

Miller and Brown have made mulled sloe gin, mulled white wine and even mulled Champagne.

"Bartending used to be something that was handed down from master to apprentice," Brown says. "The two World Wars killed off generations of bartenders, while prohibition sent the remainder off into other professions. This resulted in the ghastly mixed drinks of the 50s, 60s and 70s and it was a time when beer and wine consumption boomed. The chain had been broken. We are at the best time in history for boutique artisanal manufacturers who are reaching back to re-link the chain."

Mulled wine

By Victoria Moore

Mulled wine is a holiday tradition at our house. Simple to make, the warmed wine and spices fill the home with a wonderful aroma. It's the perfect way to start any winter party. Cheap wine is okay for this recipe, just make sure it's something you would also drink cold. Tempranillo from Spain is one good option and Chilean merlot works well too, because it's sturdy and fruity but not so distinctive that it can't make a good canvas for the spices.

Ingredients to serve 6

1 bottle red wine

1 glass brandy or port

5 cloves

1 orange, sliced

1 cinnamon stick

1 pinch mixed spice

Sugar to taste (optional)

In a saucepan, gently heat the wine and spirit. Stick the cloves into the orange slices. Add the cinnamon, clove-spiked orange slices, spice and sugar. Simmer for 15 minutes and then serve.

From 'How to Drink' by Victoria Moore (Granta, £12.99)

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas