The holiday is approaching and nothing says Christmas to me more than mulled red wine. Called by its German name of gluhwein, this warm spicy red wine is a staple of the holiday season throughout Europe. Regardless of where you are the base of the drink is the same; red wine is simmered with a variety of spices producing a warm and intoxicating drink that is sipped from small cups purchased from street vendors. Each country seems to have their own take on this traditional drink; in the Czech Republic slices of lemon float on top of the drink while orange is the citrus of choice in Slovenia and Croatia. Germany and Austria seem to forgo the the fruit but “class” up their presentation by servingthe hot beverage from commemorative mugs instead of paper cups. (This makes consumption so much more enjoyable). Look around a town square during the holiday season and groups of people will be standing around sipping their drinks and enjoying the holiday season.
I’ve been making my own version of gluhwein for many years. Whether it was served at our Christmas parties in Norfolk, VA or Tirana, Albania, every drop of the spicy warm goodness is inevitably gone by the end of the night. You can easily double or triple the following recipe if you are serving a crowd (or want a lot for yourself). For larger groups I like to make the gluhwein in a crock pot which makes it easy to serve and keeps it warm until the last drop has been drunk.
2 .75 liters dry red wine
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup white sugar-or more to taste
10 whole peppercorns
10 whole allspice
20 whole cloves
6 whole cinnamon sticks
zest of two oranges
- Toast spices in a small saucepan until fragrant being careful not to scorch them.
- Place smaller spices (peppercorns, allspice, and cloves) in a tea ball or cheesecloth bag. Place all of the spices into a large saucepan or crackpot.
- Add the wine, brandy, sugar, and orange zest to the pot.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat being careful not to boil the liquid. Stir occasionally to make
sure sugar is dissolved.
- Reduce heat and let steep a minimum of 1 hour or longer.
- When using a crock pot, I will use the “warm” setting and allow the flavors to intensify for the duration of serving while keeping the gluhwein warm.