How To Make Gluhwein

The traditional beverage served at outdoor Christmas Markets or Christkindlesmarkt is a warm spiced wine concoction called Glühwein. Muttled wine made with spices and fruit has a festive holiday flavor. Learn how to prepare this delicious and warming beverage.

The History of Gluhwein

Ancient Romans heated and added spices to wine. Viticulture and this method of preparation spread across Europe over the centuries. The medieval English cookbook “The Forme of Cury” from 1390 has a muttled wine recipe that calls for mixing red wine and sugar with spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, galangal, ginger, grains of paradise, long pepper, marjoram and nutmeg.
The oldest documented tankard for drinking Gluhwein dates back to 1420. This gold-plated, lockable silver vessel is attributed to Count John IV of Katzenelnbogen, a German grower of Riesling grapes. Although Gluhwein, which can be loosely translated as “glowing wine,” is typically made with red wine, a Mosel style preparation features white wine.
The earliest Christmas Markets in Germany date back to Nuremberg in 1545. The tradition of outdoor holiday shopping has since spread across Europe and America. The muttled wine served at these annual gatherings typically features warm spice and citrus flavors.

How to Make German Gluhwein

Gluhwein can be made at any quantity from a couple of mugs all the way up to a slow-cooker. To make four mugs, you will need the following ingredients:
  • One bottle of red or white wine
  • Two whole cinnamon sticks
  • Four whole cloves
  • Slices of orange or lemon
Scale this recipe down to a half-bottle of wine for two mugs or up to any quantity for a party. Any warm spices can be used in this recipe depending on the type of wine. Popular additions include allspice, cardamom pods, ginger, nutmeg, star anise or vanilla beans.
Combine wine, spices and fruit in a saucepan or slow cooker. Spices and fruits can be infused loose or inside in a hop bag for easy removal. Heat to a low simmer and allow ingredients to stew together for 30 to 45 minutes. Strain out the spices and fruits or remove the hop bag. If you are serving from a crock pot, keep the heat on low.

Ways To Serve Muttled Wine

Gluhwein can be served in mugs garnished with a cinnamon stick. Guests may appreciate being served Gluhwein “mit Schuss,” which means “with a shot.” Some of the most common liquors used to fortify this recipe include amaretto, brandy, port and rum. Children can be served a non-alcoholic Kinderpunsch or fruit punch made with similar spices.
There are several traditional variations on Gluhwein. Feuerzangenbowle, which literally translates to “fire-tongs punch,” involves soaking a nine-ounce loaf of sugar with high-proof rum and setting it on fire. The sugar melts, caramelizes and drips into the muttled wine. More rum is poured over the sugar until the sugar has completely melted. Traditionally, tongs were used on the sugar, but now purpose-designed metal grates can be mounted on top of the bowl to hold the Zuckerhut or sugarloaf. This version of Gluhwein is served in a heated bowl over a burner.
Making muttled wine can be a festive holiday tradition to cultivate a spirit of Gemütlichkeit, or good cheer. If you use store bought wine, all you need to do is simmer the wine with spices and fruit for 30 to 45 minutes before serving. If you prefer to make your own wine from grapes or other fruits such as blueberries or cherries, you should plan ahead to have a batch ready in time for the holiday season. It takes a minimum of two months to produce homemade wine and most wines benefit from aging for at least six months.

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