If you’ve ever been to a German Christmas market or spent time in Northern Europe during winter, you can’t have escaped warm, spiced wine. Brits refer to it as mulled wine – they also have mulled cider, just because they can. The Germans call it glühwein, the Swedes call it glögg, and there are as many recipes and variations as you want. Most families have their own way of mulling wine, but there are a few basic rules that apply to every recipe. If you’re thinking of mulling this Christmas, here’s how to do it.

Choose a nice, rounded red

You don’t want too oaky, too fruity, too anything, in fact. Just a half-decent wine for all seasons will do, as the wine isn’t the star of the show; it’s sharing the stage with sugar, spices and maybe even some fruit juice.

Choose your spices carefully

You want warm, aromatic and Christmassy flavors to go into the wine. Think cloves, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg and mace, as well as orange peel, dark sugar and maybe even a drop of brandy. You can buy pre-prepared bags of mulling spices, and if you decide to go down this route, don’t skimp, as only the better quality ones really do the trick.

Take your time

There’s a reason we refer to mulling things over – it takes time for the flavors and aromatic compounds to get into the wine. Don’t be tempted to boil the wine to speed things along, because this just doesn’t work and you can be left with a bitter mess! Just heat the wine enough to release a bit of steam and then leave it like that for a while.

Added extras

Lots of people like to drink mulled wine alongside ginger biscuits or other small cakes. In Sweden, they add whole, blanched almonds and raisins to the wine towards the end of the mulling process. You could try this, as well as spreading thin ginger biscuits with cream cheese.