Glühwein, my favorite Christmas Market Tradition

I’d tried Glühwein, or mulled wine, during the holiday season in the U.S. but mostly the cheap bad stuff. So when in Hamburg 2007 my group said we needed to stop by the Christmas Market for Glühwein, I wasn’t too excited. Then I tasted the real thing … I was hooked!

Glüwein is very popular in Germany as the traditional Weihnacthmarkt beverage everyone’s toasting & warming up to. The oldest Glühwein tankard is documented by the high noble German and first Riesling grower of the world, Count John IV of Katzenelnbogen (Rhineland-Palatinate region) around 1420. Usually made from red wine (although there are white varieties), its heated and spiced with cloves, cinnamon sticks, citrus and sugar. Depending on the recipe ,it can be either more heavy on citrus or nutty flavors. At the Christmas Markets you can also drink it “mitt schuss,”  with a shot of rum or liqueur for an extra bit of warmth. And don’t forget your souvenir mug to take home.

The historical Bavarian city of Nuremberg and its famous Christkindlmarkt has bottled their own Christkindl’s Glühwein and you can buy it in the U.S. Our local grocer in Amsterdam, Albert Heijn, produced one last year that was delicious (we moved with a bottle and looking forward to opening it soon). Or you can make your own…

Glühwein Recipe

  • 1 bottle (normal size, 0.75 liter) of dry red wine (e.g. Merlot or Burgundy)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 3 thin slices of orange peel
  • 3-4 tablespoons of sugar (about 60 grams)
  • Directions: Pour the wine into a large pot, add all spices and begin heating over low heat. Heat to 170 degrees F … do not allow to boil! Steep for about 10 minutes over low heat. Add more sugar or spices, if desired, stirring well so it dissolves. serve with half a slice of orange for garnish

My favorite Glühwein moment is standing in the snow at the Regensburg, Germany Romantischer Weihnacthsmarkt gathered around a blazing fire mulling the piping hot wein before its ladled right into your cup.

You’ll also find mulled wine in many other countries under different names like vin chaud in France, vin brulé in Italy or Glögg in the Nordic countries.

Share your favorite recipe or memory too. Prost!