• Lorelei Helmke

Gluhwein For the Holidays


There is a wine based drink people have consumed for hundreds of years. The origins of Glühwein go back to the beginning of wine culture in Europe. It begins the Romans who brought wine to Europe would heat their wine and add spices. I guess being from a much warmer climate the Romans needed to find ways to keep warm.

Another account of the evolution of Glühwein is that in 400 A.D. monks began warming and spicing their wine. Centuries later, Glühwein became popularized when Count John IV of Katzenelnogen, a German nobleman and grower of Riesling mulled his white wine during the holidays. This traditional version was low in alcohol, so children were allowed to drink it with gingerbread cookies. It can be found in every Christmas Market throughout Germany.

The recipes pass down from generation to generation and have become as much a part of our holiday celebrations in America as egg nog. But the holidays are not the only time we can enjoy Glühwein. Skiers warm up with Glühwein all season long.

There is little better than coming off the slopes, getting out of those ski boots and curling up by a fire with a cup of warm spiced wine. It’s a tradition all through Europe and seems to be catching on stateside. Each year I see Glühwein or Glogg more prominent in the stores and among wine and foodie websites.

If you are planning a ski vacation this new year, you can expect to find this glorious concoction perfuming the air at many ski resort throughout the Europe and places like Lake Tahoe. It is after all the perfect après ski beverage.

Glühwein has may different variations. Some add brandy or rum or vodka. It seems each region offers its own twist on this delightful tradition.

To make traditional German Glühwein warm a bottle of dry red wine with the juice of 2 oranges. Remove the zest from the oranges in wide peels to use in serving. Add one cup of simple syrup (1/4 cup sugar heated and dissolved in 3/4 cup water), 20 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks and 2 whole star anise. Let this warm on the stove (do not boil) for at least 20 minutes. Serve in mugs with a slice of the orange peel.

White Glühwein starts with a fruity riesling. From there it can be made in a similar way as the red. Using mandarins instead of oranges and adding lemons to the mix give this version fabulous layers of flavor. The addition of apple juice is also an option.

To either of these styles of Glühwein alcohol can be added for that extra warming kick. Tradition calls for white rum or vodka. Amaretto can substitute as well. This style is referred to as Glüewein mit Schoss or Glühwein with a Shot.

Another, more elaborate version of Glühwein is called Feuerzangenbowle. It is prepared using a bowl set similar to a fondue set. Place the wine and spices in the bowl. A metal grate the Feuerzange is placed on top of the bowl and a sugar loaf, about 7 inches long, is soaked in rum placed on the Feuerzange and set alight. The burnt sugar blends with the mulled wine in a very impressing display.

Germany isn’t the only country that enjoys this gastronomic pleasure. Here are a few examples of Glüewein around the world:

In Brazil it is served as a part of Festa Junina, during their winter.

In Chile it is called candola in the south and vino navega’o in the north and traditionally consumed on Winter Solstice eve, June 23rd.

In Poland grzane wino is served and they also have a method for preparing mulled beer or grzane piwo.

In Portugal Madeira wine and Port wine is used to make vinho quente.

In Quebec, Canada red wine is mixed with maple syrup ad hard liquor and heated. This is called Caribou.

In France, vin chaud consists of red wine, honey, cinnamon and orange and must not be too sweet.

In the Republic of Macedonia it is called vareno vino. They serve is throughout autumn and winter. It is prepared using pepper and used as a flu and cold preventative.

Back in Texas, we add our own style. This year, before the snow, I prepared a Sangria in the style of Glühwein. Using orange liqueur, a cranberry simple syrup, orange slices, cranberries, and cinnamon sticks. Served chilled on ice with a splash of Topo Chico for bubbles. It was sumptuous!


Lorelei Helmke, C.S.W

Wine Siren

Warm up with Gluhwein

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