A question we often get in the winter is; why on earth would anyone want to go punting in the cold and the wet?
To which we have a simple answer: Because you have impaired your decision-making faculties with an invigorating and festive cup of mulled wine. Mulled wine is such an integral part of outdoor activities in winter that we actually keep a small pre-mixed bottle and a gas stove in our first aid kit at all times.
But where does the discerning Cambridge customer pick up the best glass of festive tipple?
We’re glad you asked. Very glad. Because here at Cambridge Punters – we do the hard drinking for you. No longer will you have to go from vendor to vendor, seeking the greatest Mull… because we have located all of the best local suppliers around Quayside and ranked them…
IN THE FIRST EVER MULLED WINE OLYMPICS
We choose The Pickerel Inn, The Maypole, Cafe Foy, and the Cambridge Wine Merchants, and ranked their offerings according to Flavour, Spice, Sensory Experience, Warmth, Je Se Sais Qua, and Economy.
The Mulled Wine at The Cambridge Wine Merchants is reminiscent of what you might get if you had a wealthy, alcoholic, uncle with an extensive wine cellar and and mischievous sense of humour. It’s ingredients vary on a day to day basis, and you can usually bet that there’s a little extra “fortification” thrown in. It is always piping hot and a strong favourite amongst our staff after a long day in the cold. The lack of a consistent recipe can mean the spice ratios fluctuate a little, but the possibility of rare and expensive wines accidentally finding their way into the brew often makes up for it.
Spice 3/5, Sensory Experience: 4/5, Warmth 4/5, Je Ne Sais Qua 4/5, Economy 4/5
TOTAL SCORE: 19/25
The Pickerel Inn is the oldest pub in Cambridge, and so our expectations were high. At £4.99 it was one of the pricier mulled wines available and although they kindly allowed us to take a glass away for scientific testing; they do not normally allow take away mulled wines. The upshot of this is you can get a seat next to a roaring fire in a classic pub while you drink it.
We found the spice level a little underwhelming, and understand this is due to the limitations imposed by Greene King on what ingredients can be ordered. The wine was also a little sweet for our palettes, but this is not necessarily a bad thing if you prefer your mulled wine on the sweet side. We detected a touch of port in there – and we strongly improve of fortifying those mulled wines!
The Pickerel also had the best presentation of the wines we tested. Served in a nice glass with a little bit of fruit. Which is a great way to convince your friends that this is a sophisticated and legitimate alternative to coffee at 11am, and not some kind of health concern.
Our overall ranking?
Spice 3/5, Sensory Experience: 4/5, Warmth 3/5, Je Ne Sais Qua 4/5, Economy 3/5
TOTAL SCORE: 17/25
When we arrived at Cafe Foy we were alarmed to discover that they were unaware the mulled wine olympics were taking place that day. Indeed they claimed it was “not a real thing”. This meant that their mulled wine was unavailable to compete and therefore does not qualify for a score. We cried. They cried. It was messy.
However, they have kindly offered to host our staff Christmas Do, and even to make us saucepan of ultra-rare mulled wine for the occasion. So we would like to give them an honorary mention and recommendation.
The Maypole’s mulled wine contains our favourite ingredient; “I’m not sure what he put in it today”. This is a traditional and, we feel, healthy approach to the art. We were delighted to see that the serving was also significantly larger than other establishments. This was one of the pricier mulled wines available, but had a very spicy, tangy, edge and a “good nose”. All of which go down well with the staff at Cambridge Punters. It was a little cool on the day, but the friendly staff offered to heat up so that it would stay warm for us on the walk back to the river
Spice 4/5, Sensory Experience: 4/5, Warmth 3/5, Je Ne Sais Qua 5/5, Economy 3/5
TOTAL SCORE: 19/25
So there you have it folks. The best mulled wines, rated by people who spend all day outside in the cold.
See you on the river!