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
life
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
News
Melissa and Joan Rivers together at an NBC event in May 2014
peopleDaughter Melissa thanks fans for 'outpouring of support'
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
News
news
Environment
Fungi pose the biggest threat globally and in the UK, where they threaten the country’s wheat and potato harvests
environmentCrop pests are 'grave threat to global food security'
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
News
peopleWrestling veteran drifting in and out of consciousness
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
News
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
people
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballAnd Liverpool are happy despite drawing European champions
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone