The time of year has come for the well-known, winter-spiced favourite that is: mulled wine… or as some might say, Christmas in a cup! Even if you’re not the biggest fan, you’ll likely find yourself sipping this traditional drink from a small paper cup, somewhere outside in the cold, at some point in December. It just has to be done.
For me, the game changes when you bring this festive friend into your kitchen, allowing the scent to spread Christmas Spirit all through the house. When I was little, the smell of mulled wine signified Christmas Eve and the approaching arrival of our guests. This year we are continuing the tradition by delivering “a cup of cheer” to relatives (following government guidelines) but we are taking it back to our West Country roots and supporting local. Enter…mulled cider!
Cider has long been associated with the West Country, with apple orchards thriving across the county of Somerset in particular. Here on The Levels, we are spoilt for choice with many fantastic cider making establishments on our doorstep. Sheppy’s Cider and Rich’s Cider are two local favourites and both offer brilliant insight into production – from apple to tipple! If my grandad’s head out for the day, they generally end up in the direction of one of these and the farm shops are a go-to for sorting Christmas present conundrums!
Working my first pub job down at the local, I remember a tour was organised to Thatcher’s Cider itself – also taking residence in Somerset. Being 17 years old, I lucked out. But needless to say, my Dad jumped at the chance to fill my shoes!
The point I’m making is that cider and Somerset go hand in hand. It can be tempting to reach for a bottle of your summer favourite to pour a little sunshine into these dull winter days but mulled cider is a hearty, festive alternative. A gift from the South West that is cosy, spicy and fruity with the power to warm up winter!
Essentially, like mulled wine, you can tailor any recipe to your taste. I have detailed my favourite rendition below (including my secret ingredient) but I use the recipe from Thatchers themselves as a guide for quantities. Follow the link to see how they do it!
But if I’m honest, I make it different each time. This year we used half Thatchers Rascal and half Thatchers Rose and the colour this combination produced was a wonderful, festive shade of amber! (Sadly we are shielding so a trip to our local favourite was off the table). The added sweetness from the Rose meant I chose not to add any brown sugar but the flavour was bursting with fruit! So do mix and match and have fun with it!
500ml of any medium / sweet cider
500ml of rose cider
½ apple, sliced
½ orange, sliced
Peel of ½ a lemon
2x cinnamon sticks
1x star anise
2x cardamom pod
¼ tsp of ground nutmeg
¼ tsp of ground ginger
Secret Ingredient: Cider Brandy to serve (the bigger the glass the bigger the splash)
1. Pour cider into a large saucepan
2. Add all of the ingredients straight in – except for the cider brandy
3. Warm slowly and simmer for at least 20 minutes but DO NOT let it boil or you will lose the alcohol.
4. Pour 15ml of cider brandy into the bottom of each glass (this quantity is totally up to you)
5. Using a ladle, pour your mulled cider into each glass
6. Add decoration (I like to place a cinnamon stick and an orange slice)
7. Enjoy – be careful it’s hot!
– By using half ordinary and half rose cider we took out the soft brown sugar. If NOT mixing with Rose Cider then you may want to add soft brown sugar back in. Thatchers recommend 5tbs but they do add more lemon than I have. It’s all relative and it’s all up to you!
– We use Cider Brandy from local, award-winning producers ‘The Somerset Cider Brandy Company’ who also produce Burrow Hill Cider – another fantastic, local and family-run cider company. You can, however, substitute this element for rum, brandy or leave it out completely if you don’t want the extra alcohol content.
– Be creative and open-minded but when it comes to ingredient quantities, REMEMBER you can add more in but you can’t take it out #littlebylittle.
From the heart of Somerset, I share with you just how simple it is to create this mulled merriness. I hope you find a combination you and your loved ones can enjoy!
Remember this Christmas to #shoplocal and #supportsmallbusinesses.
Regional Reporter - South West England
A motto I live by is “if it makes your heart happy, follow it and the right doors for you will open”. I grew up on the Somerset Levels and am currently studying my final year of Hospitality Management at the University of Plymouth. After specialising in the Cruise Industry and spending 7 months sailing around the world, I simply confirmed that the British countryside is where my heart lies. Like many, my love of the countryside runs deep. I spend as much of my free time possible riding, sailing, baking or exploring with my dog in tow and I love nothing more than a countryside picnic…except maybe a cosy pub dinner! To me, hospitality is about having something you’re proud of and wanting to share it; a purpose I see mirrored in the objectives of the Ladies Countryside Community and I’m excited to get stuck in! Take a look at my blog @thecountrysidecorner