WE’RE gearing up for mistletoe, mince pies, maids-a-milking and of course, mulled wine.

It’s the only time of year we get to experience ‘Christmas in a glass’ and get the dusty old bottle of mulled wine out – or as in more and more cases, hit the spice rack and whisk up our own batch.

The traditional festive beverage, usually made with red wine together with various mulling spices and raisins, has been served hot or warm since the the second century.

The drink is said to have been created by the Romans who would heat wine to defend their bodies against the cold winter. As the Romans conquered much of Europe throughout the next century, their love for mulled wine spread across the empire.

As its popularity continued to grow throughout the middle ages, Europeans would mix heated wine with spices because they believed it would promote health and avoid sickness.

They would also use herbs and flowers as natural sweeteners to make often unpalatable wines taste better.

But far from being just a festive novelty to be sipped at the fireside or at a Christmas market, there are plenty of great health benefits that go along with a freshly brewed batch of mulled wine.

Nutmeg, a common spice used in mulled wine acts as a tonic and can clean out the liver and detoxify the body.

In addition, the cinnamon used in mulled wine is good for the body, and contains antioxidants that have potent anti-inflammatory activity that can reduce swelling and restore normal tissue function.

So where can you glug down some mulled wine or enjoy some eggnog this Christmas across Essex? Here’s our guide to beverage themed festivities coming up across the county..

l Gluhwein (hot mulled wine), authentic German beers will help visitors to the Christmas German Market at Meadow Croft Garden Centre in Battlesbridge, soak up the festive atmosphere. The market is now open daily and there will also be a late night on Thursday November 23 when the market will be on from 6pm -9pm.

As well as the festive drinks, the market will have a wide range of mouth -watering German food on sale such as bratwurst, sauerkraut, pretzels, waffles and Schokokusse . The German market also features 20 or more stalls, festooned with delicately crafted Yuletide gifts, from Christmas ornaments, candles, cuckoo clocks, traditional Christmas fare and beautiful handmade woollen hats and gloves.

l On Thursday December 7 there will be a Charity Oompah Band Night themed German market. Entry is £10 per car parking ticket with proceeds going to Little Havens Hospice in Southend. www.meadow-croft.co.uk

l Ease yourself into the Christmas spirit with a little help from Dedham Vale Vineyard. The vineyard in Green Lane, Boxted, near Colchester is hosting a Mulled Wine and Turkey Tasting event on Saturday November 25. Visitors can also try out their craft skills with a wreath making course. Advance booking required for the Wreath Making Course - see www.dedhamvalevineyard.com

l Right on the Essex/Suffolk border, a Festive Wine Tasting event will be held at Oak Barn, Stoke By Nayland Village Hall over the evenings of Friday November 24 and Saturday Novembner 25, from 6pm-9pm on both days. The relaxed and informal evening of wine tasting in the cellar and offices at The Oak Barn will enable visitors to taste a range of wines and gin selected for the festive season. Tickets are £12.50 per person, or £10. per person for parties of four or more people. www.promotionwine.co.uk/festive-tasting/