Much as I adore vin chaud, I think there is room to expand the repertoire of warm punch to get a Christmas party started, or to warm the body and soul after a brisk walk or a bout of carol singing (not that I could ever inflict my voice on anyone). This milled cider is mellow and fruity and, despite the rum sploshed in as well, mild to the taste and all too drinkable. Just make sure you don’t swig while it’s still mouth-burningly hot.
Yield: Makes 1 ¼ quarts, enough for about 6 servings
1 quart apple cider
¼ cup dark rum
1 cup apple cinnamon tea, made up from an herbal teabag
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
4 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
2 fresh bay leaves, preferably Turkish
2 cardamom pods, bruised
1 x 1-inch piece unpeeled ginger
Pour the cider, rum, and herbal tea into a wide saucepan, add the sugar and pour over a low heat to mull.
Halve the clementines, stick a clove into each half, and add them to the pan.
Break the cinnamon sticks in half, and tip into the pan. Add the bay leaves, bruised cardamom pods and whole piece of ginger, and let everything infuse as the pan comes almost to the boil.
Once the pan is near to boiling, turn down the heat, so that it just keeps warm, and ladle into heatproof glasses with handles to serve.
To make this into a non-alcoholic warmer, replace the cider and rum with 1 quart of apple juice and ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice. You probably won’t need the sugar, but taste when warm to see if you want a little and the add as you like.
Make ahead tip:
Make the cider, strain and cool. Remove the cloves at this point otherwise the flavor will become too overpowering as the drink sits. Cover and keep in a cool, dark place for up to 2 days until needed. When ready to serve, return the mulled cider to the saucepan and reheat gently without boiling.