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The Glühwein Trials

December 20, 2009
Here in Berlin, the holiday season is all about Christmas markets, Stollen and Glühwein. I’ve been to many of these markets where I’ve enjoyed many a mug of glühwein. Alas, I am still lusting after a good slice of Stollen (traditional German christmas cake… sort of like a heavier, icing sugar-dusted Panettone in loaf form).

For those of you unfamiliar with Glühwein, it is simply the German take on mulled wine. Many countries have their own variations, from the Scandinavian glögg of the Scandinavian countries to the Romanian vin fiert to the navegado of Chile. The variations are subtle, but nonetheless, as a Glühwein-making-virgin, I figured that some experimentation was in order. I’ll be spending Christmas in London with a few of my closest friends; an ‘Orphan Christmas’ we’re calling it, as we have no family but each other in London. One of said close friends loves Glühwein and so this intoxicating investigation was imbibed in her honour.

In order to keep the testing reasonably sane, each batch of glühwein only contained 250ml of red wine. Why? Well, I’m home alone, I wanted to still be able to taste the the third batch and, oh yes… my poor liver! Don’t worry though, the recipe that I’ve included below is for a more reasonable batch size… and for more festive quantities, multiply away! In the end, the first batch was my favourite and so it’s this one that I’m including. In case you want to do some experimentation of your own, here are some ways you can tweak the recipe to your liking:

  • add some orange juice
  • alter the quantities of (or omit) some of the spices listed below
  • add a little extra kick at the end: schnapps, rum, kirsch, vodka, calvados, amaretto… whatever tickles your fancy



750ml dry red wine (such as a zinfandel, merlot or burgundy)

3 T brown sugar

3 cinnamon sticks (if you don’t have any, use 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon instead)

4 clove (whole)

4 allspice (whole)

1 orange or 2 clementines (cut into wedges)

1/4 tsp vanilla essence


1. Pour the wine into a pot and begin heating over low heat.

2. As it begins to warm, add sugar and spices. Stir until sugar is dissolved.

3. Squeeze the orange/clementine wedges into the pot and then drop them in as well.

4. Steep for about 1 hour over low heat. Make sure not to boil your glühwein or you’ll evaporate all the alcohol!

5. Check the sweetness and add more sugar if needed, stirring well so it dissolves.

6. Strain and serve hot, garnished with orange slices.

VERDICT Oh, yum! Was worried some of the bitterness from the orange peel might be there… but, no! Not too sweet; just right.

A handful of spices, a bottle of red, a few shots of vodka and some random liquor – later… I’m quite tipsy (teeheehee… woops!). Oh, what won’t I do in the search for truth?


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