Gluhwein (aka Mulled Wine)

by Food Hound on January 15, 2014

in Drinks

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This post will may get minimal traffic, but I assure you that its subject matter is one of the nearest and dearest things I will ever put down on paper.  Screen.  Mobile device.

Those of you who know me know that my feet are firmly and happily grounded in Tennessee, but my heart and soul live on the other side of the Atlantic.  I know Europe has the same issues as the States, with an extra helping of bureaucracy and tobacco-induced cancer, but my parents were right: as I was crying and cursing them for disrupting my superficially exciting 16-year-old life by moving our family to Brussels, they assured me that years later, when it was time to move back, I would be crying to stay.

Shhhhhh, don’t tell them… but they were right.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be lucky enough to live overseas again, but I remind the Booze Hound on a nearly daily basis that if an international position comes available, he can accept and just tell me where to ship our stuff.  I have been beyond blessed that I am married to someone who totally thinks my Euro-obsession is attractively nutso, and also totally had bread shipped in from Paris for my birthday last year.  And whaddya know, the world of turfgrass science has even allowed us to hop across the pond a few times over the past few years (plus Chile, China, and living in Hawaii… hollah for turf!!).

We got us one of those toddlers now, so jet-setting to Europe requires the help of the whole family village because although I fantasize about teenage Emma and me having champagne at the cafe outside her suite at the Sorbonne, hell no do I want to be playing Monkey Lunch Box on the iPad with my two-year-old on a train through the European countryside instead of drinking bottles glasses of wine with the hubs talking about how much foie gras I’m going to eat at my next meal as the same train whizzes me through the same European countryside.  Luckily my parents are the grandparents practically handing us our passports so they can soak up a solo week with their cherubic grandchild… and part of me (all of me) thinks (totally knows) that my mom believes more solo trips = more grand-babies.

Betcha can't have just one!

Betcha can’t have just one!

While there still may be an ocean between the land I love and the land in which I live, the world is flattening.  I can buy good European butter at my friendly neighborhood Kroger.  CrossFit has found its way to Paris (3…2…1…Allons-y!!).  And… I have brought Gluhwein to our tiny homestead in Tennessee.

Gluhwein (GLOO-vine), literally ‘glow wine’ in German, is the famous mulled wine served at German Christmas markets.  Also similar to ‘vin chaud,’ which is the French version of mulled wine.  Why do I, so obsessed with all things French, call it by its German name?  Well, I was introduced to it in Germany.  I have drunk a lot of it in Germany.  The German version usually includes liquor, and I’m married to the Booze Hound.  Let’s be honest- my Euro-love is not limited to France.  I’ll live in Germany.  Coat me in Müesli and watch me go.

Mulled wine has a leeeetle following here in the US, but nothing like in Germany and the rest of northern Europe, where it’s basically the national beverage from November to January.  I got the idea for an annual Gluhwein party when we were in at a Christmas market in Germany one year, and we both realized we were holding mugs of the best excuse to throw a winter party ever.  It’s warm (good for winter), spiced (good for Christmas) wine (did someone say PAR-TAY???).  It doesn’t matter if no one would know how to say it- you can’t feel your tongue once you’re three mugs in, anyway!

The start of the best tradition ever?  Or the worst hangover ever?  The world may never know...

The start of the best tradition ever? Or the worst hangover ever? The world may never know…

That first year we made the Gluhwein using a spice blend I brought home from Germany and set up a liquor bar where each person could add any of four liquors (rum, Cointreau, brandy, Jagermeister) to his/her liking.  I kind of winged it with the steeping time and the sugar.  We had some Gluhwein takers- mostly our like-minded neighbors who will try anything with a proof (love our neighborhood!).  The next year we had a few more takers, the next year a few more.  Word was spreading, and Gluhwein was seeping into Knoxville culture through Food Hound Headquarters.

Then in 2013, I got serious.

No longer was I satisfied using a commercial spice blend (which was probably beyond outdated four years after the purchase date).  No longer was I satisfied with winging it.  I take my Gluhwein seriously and by golly, I was going to do it right.  This required research, fresh spices, and lots and lots of testing.  GAH, I love my life!!

Friends, I accomplished my mission.  I would like to thank all the bottles of wine who sacrificed themselves in the name of research, as well as the bottles of water consumed right before bed when we realized our only hydration all night was… wine.  I would like to thank the Booze Hound, who tirelessly and selflessly tasted every batch, even drinking those that were chalked up as ‘works in progress.’  I would like to thank the Gluhwein Party OGs who have tasted the evolution of my Gluhwein into what it is today.  And I would like to thank all the people who prayed we would have beer at the party (we always do), but embraced the true Christmas spirit and tried a mug anyway.

There are tons of Gluhwein recipes out there, but I like mine the best.  This is a safe zone, so I can admit that.  Mine is a nice blend of the traditional French ‘vin chaud‘ with a prominent cinnamon presence, and the traditional German Gluhwein with plenty of citrus flavor.  But too much of either one of these things can be very overpowering, so they are balanced out by cloves, cardamom, star anise, and sweetness from sugar.  You have to have some sugar to take the edge off that hot wine, but not too much.

Our Gluhwein Party is probably one of my most favorite days of the year.  Not only for the obvious reason that I get to partake in the 2+ boxes of wine I mull, but it conjures up all kinds of fabulous memories.  It reminds me of visiting my first European Christmas markets with my family then, many years later, with the Booze Hound.  It reminds me of roaming around Paris with the Booze Hound when it was juuuuuuust cool enough during the day for the cafes to keep vin chaud on their menus.  It makes me think of all the fabulous trips I will take in the future.  It brings a piece of Europe to me.

[While Gluhwein is the star of the show, you know any party of mine is jam-packed with food.  I started out making all desserts because I used it as an excuse to make all the dessert recipes I hoard throughout the year, but then I figured we needed some savory stuff to break it up.    This year I made my Classic Cheese Fondue as my savory offering + some amazing spiced nuts I will post soon… oh, and I still made a boatload of desserts because that’s my thang.  Some of those dessert recipes will be coming to a blog near you very soon, but two of them are annual standbys that need an annual nod: Perfect Gingersnaps (the best you will ever taste, hands down), and Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting (kickass brown butter flavor).]

Gluhwein (aka Mulled Wine)
Serves: 6
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 2-inch strips fresh orange zest
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1.5 L dry red wine (I use a cab or old vine zin)
  • ½ c sugar
  1. Place all of the spices + zest strips in an infusion ball or tie in cheesecloth, breaking the cinnamon sticks in half if needed. Pour wine into a small pot, allowing for the wine to be deep enough to fully submerge the spices. Stir in sugar. Bring wine to a simmer over low heat, and let it simmer for approximately 1 hour- more or less depending on how much spice flavor you like. Remove and discard spices. Enjoy!!!
I have spent years perfecting this recipe, and I think I finally got it!! A single (750 ml) bottle of wine really only serves 1 hearty mug of Gluhwein for two people, so this recipe uses a 1.5 L bottle. You can easily mull more wine (I do 2 boxes for my party- that's 8 bottles, hubba hubba) but I find the best way to adjust the spice is to let it simmer longer rather than increase the amount of spices. For example, when I mull make it for my party (2 boxes in the slow cooker) I let it simmer for 3 hours. A good rule of thumb for sugar is about ¼ c per bottle, but if mulling larger volumes, I would approach the total sugar conservatively because you don't want it too sweet. I use a total of 1.5 c sugar for my 2 boxes. Also, in Germany it is traditionally served with liquor added, so we offer a liquor bar for people to DIY their own mixes. I prefer it plain, but good liquor ideas are brandy, orange liquor, rum, or Jagermeister. As far as quality of wine, don't spend a lot of money- I use Flip Flop or Yellow Tail or one of the better boxes, like Bota.



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