Glühwein & Hot Spiced Wine • History & Recipe
Discovering Hot Spiced Wine (Gluhwein) at the European Christmas Markets
Stroll through the Christmas Markets in Europe and you will inevitably see many people with boot shaped mugs with a liquid called Glühwein in their hands. Europeans flock to the Christmas Markets to enjoy the Christmas setting, eat the food, shop for gifts, but maybe most importably to share a drink with their friends and neighbors.
Locals gather around standup tables at each market sipping the local hot wine in these seasonal outdoor pubs.
What is Glühwein?
Glühwein or a variation is served across Europe during the holiday season. The essence of the drink is a hot spiced wine.
In England it is called mulled wine, in Germany Glühwein, and across other countries, a local variation or word is in the local dialect to describe this traditional holiday drink.
The drink is usually prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with variations of spices from the region and guarded family recipes.
Spices include cinnamon sticks, cloves, star aniseed, citrus, sugar and vanilla pods and fruit includes oranges and lemon. An extra shot of liquor (mit Schuss) is also sometimes added for an extra kick including rum, brandy or other local liquor.
Non-alcoholic versions are also available at the markets including Kinder Punch (Children’s Punch) or hot chocolate.
Keep the Mugs
You can keep the mug!
If you visit a Christmas Mart, you can keep the mug as a souvenir. When you purchase your beverage, you will pay an additional pfand (deposit) of 2-4 euros for the mug.
If you want to keep the mug, you can. If not, just return it to the same booth for a refund of your deposit.
Tip: If you are keeping the mug, you can exchange it for a clean one to avoid spiced wine drips in your daybag.
Bring the memory home and serve your own Spiced Mulled Wine concoction in these cute Christmas mugs.
History of Hot Spiced Wine
Wine was first recorded as spiced and heated during the 2nd century in Rome. As the Romans traveled, traded, invaded and conquered across Europe, they brought with them wine. Viticulture remains along the Rhine and Danube rivers today.
The hot wine recipes have evolved over hundreds of years and remained as a staple in both continental Europe and England.
In 1390, a medieval English cookery book called The Former of Cury mentions mulled wine. It says: “Pur fait Ypocras …” grinding together cinnamon, ginger, galangal, cloves, long pepper, nutmge, marjoram, cardamom, and grains of paradise (“spykenard de Spayn”, rosemary may be substituted). This is mixed with red wine and sugar.
The first Christmas Markets date to the early 1300’s in Germany, so it is not surprise that the German also make the claim for the first Christmas tankard dating to 1420. A German nobleman had a special gold plated tankard just for sipping sweet and spicy liquid.
Today, a version of hot spiced wine is your go-to holiday drink at European Christmas Markets.
What is the best wine to use to make Glühwein?
You can use either a white wine or a red wine, though in most areas, red wine is used.
The key is to find a fruit driven wine that is full-bodied, bold and unoaked. Unoaked wines usually have fresh fruit flavors and less cedar, toasty or vanilla characters that would come from the barrels.
Mulling (or heating) wine disguises a lot of the nuances of flavor, so it is recommended that you do not pick a delicate flavored wine.
Most vendors I spoke to used big full-bodied red wines such as Italian reds, Southern French or New World Merlot and Shiraz. Their checklist – high alcohol, lots of fruit, and relatively high tannins.
- 1 large orange
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 20 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 whole star anise
- 1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry red wine
- Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the orange in wide strips, taking care to avoid the white pith; set aside. Juice the orange and set the juice aside.
- SUGAR: Combine the water and sugar in a large, nonreactive saucepan. Boil until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- SPICE: Reduce the heat until no longer boiling, then add in the spices including: cinnamon, cloves, star anise and orange peel. TIP: Stick the cloves in the orange peel so you don’t have to fish them out later.
- EVERYTHING NICE: Reduce the heat to a simmer, then add the wine and the orange juice. Simmer for a minimum of thirty minutes, or up to a couple of hours. Don’t let it boil as it will boil off the alcohol.
- Strain and serve in small mugs. You can add a shot of rum or amaretto and garnishing with the orange peel and star anise for extra Christmas cheer.
Never over heat the wine. There are some wines that should be able to withstand a bit of heat, and others that just crumble when heated up. Alcohol starts to vaporize at 78°C / 172°F, so you want to keep the temperature well below that.
Add more spices to add a different flavor. These are some of the spices used in other countries:
- France: orange peel, honey and cinnamon
- Bulgaria: red wine, honey and peppercorn
- Balkan countries: nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, sugar and orange zest
- Hungary: cinnamon, sugar and cloves
- Nordic countries: blanched almonds, raisins, and Aquavit liquor
Spiced hot wine in other countries?
If you are headed beyond Germany to other European Christmas Markets, look for these terms on the huts to find the hot spiced wine. These Christmas drinks will usually use their local wines and spices & fruits available in their region. These special concoctions will highlight the treasured recipes perfected over generations.
Inspired to visit the German Christmas Markets?
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