When we asked Raymond Blanc for his go-to Christmas cocktail, the world-famous chef immediately leapt for mulled wine. An obvious choice? You may think so — it’s virtually impossible to avoid the stuff in pubs and bars during December. But at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, Blanc’s Oxfordshire bolthole, the drink is almost unrecognisable; a far more subtly spiced version of the classic cocktail.
“The trick is to simmer the syrup with sugar, water, spices and fruit,” says Tom Hollywood, Head Mixologist at Le Manoir’s cocktail bar. “Everything except the wine. And then add the wine, without ever bringing it to the boil. Keep in mind that, if you taste the wine and think it’s a bit subtle and under-spiced after the first sip, it’s probably perfect, and you won’t be thinking this by the time you’re a few more sips down.”
Most mulled wines are far too sweet or far too spiced, Hollywood warns — with some even boiling off much of the flavour-boosting alcohol. “When adding the red wine,” the mixologist advises, “keep stirring and do not stop. If you let the wine sit and boil, you will be boiling the alcohol off.”
And so, to spice things up (literally) Raymond Blanc recommends you substitute cloves for nutmeg, allspice, cardamom or even pumpkin pie spice. “We use Valencia oranges from Spain, as these are known to be the best. The gardens at Le Manoir are filled with hundreds of types of herbs and spices, so we like to experiment with these too.”
How to Make Raymond Blanc’s Mulled Wine from Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
Ingredients (serves 6):
- 1 litre of Fruity, Smooth Red Wine
- 200ml Water
- 200g Sugar, Honey or Maple Syrup
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
- 2 Oranges (cut in quarters but not squeezed)
- 1 Lemon (cut in quarters and not squeezed)
- 5 Cloves
- 20g Ginger
- 1 small Vanilla Pod
- Dehydrated Orange or slice of Fresh Orange
- Cinnamon Stick
- Whole Star Anise
- Mix together everything except the red wine in a saucepan
- Bring to a gentle boil and then let cool down
- Add the red wine to the mix
- Heat the wine gently, ensuring it does not boil
- Taste and adjust by adding sugar where required
- If you wish to strengthen the mix, you can add some brandy or a liqueur (at Le Manor, we love to use a Tawny Port, as it blends well with the rest of the dark fruit and herbal flavours)
- Pass the mix through a funnel to separate all the ingredients from the wine
- Serve in a heatproof glass
Want more Christmassy cocktails? Here’s how to make The London No.1 Gin ‘Blue Martini’…
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