I have tried many times to recreate a decent mulled ‘wine’ that is alcohol-free – because despite what legend may otherwise tell you, boiling alcohol doesn’t eliminate it completely, it just reduces it – and by how much is so comprehensively variable that I dare not even try to tackle it. Mulling alcohol-free red wine would seem like the obvious choice, but I’m yet to find one that stands up to the challenge. If you know of a good, jammy Shiraz in the alcohol-free section, do let me know! Until then, this experiment with my slow cooker has proved to be the favourite; the deep smoke from the slow-brewed Lapsang and the dark, juicy fruit flavours combine with the traditional mulling spices to make a hot, rich, grown-up drink, without the headache.
Some of the ingredients may seem a little odd – so let me explain. The ginger and sultanas are to replace the traditional ginger wine that forms the base of mulled wine. Ginger wine is made from raisins and ginger, so I simply swapped it out for those two ingredients. The pomegranates and blackberries give the rich, fruity feel of a full-bodied red, and a comfortingly convincing colour. (If you can’t stretch to pomegranates, and even I only buy them from the frozen section of the supermarket, frozen raspberries or canned cherries will work in its place.) The Lapsang holds it all together with the tannin background that you’d expect from a heavy red wine, and a smoky depth of flavour to evoke home fires and festive spirit. I wasn’t going to include this bit but when I gave it to Mrs J she asked how I’d made it, and then said ‘that’s all really interesting, why don’t you share how you do things more because I don’t think you get enough credit for the clever stuff.’ So, awkward cough, there it is.
Makes 750ml, or 6x 125ml glasses from 31p each. (I may provide links to the ingredients that I use so you can see how I calculate my recipe costs, and I may earn a small commission if you click the links or purchase any ingredients.)
750ml boiling water
First, bring a pan of 750ml water to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the lapsang teabags and stir gently but continuously for one minute.
Measure in the pomegranate, blackberries and sultanas. Quarter your orange and add to the pan, then grate in the ginger. Add the bay, peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon, then bring back to the boil.
Reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes, then cover and allow to steep for at least one hour. For full disclosure, I left mine for four, but that was mostly out of forgetfulness. I tasted it after an hour and it was just fine, but admittedly the longer it gets to stew all the flavours and meld them together, the better it’s going to get.
Bring back to a simmer to serve, and strain through a fine mesh strainer before pouring into glasses or mugs – nobody wants to end up with the teabag! Sweeten to taste with sugar or honey, and serve hot.
All text copyright Jack Monroe.
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