It’s one of my very favorite times of year in Germany, and if I were to move back to the US eventually, I know that this would be a time of year when I would get very nostalgic for Germany, yearning for the festive markets, the Christmas lights, the cobblestone city centers with people all bundled up, laughing and chatting and wandering from stall to stall, and mittened hands curled around steaming mugs of Glühwein.
It’s another example of something that we just can’t do in the U.S. because of our regulations about alcohol. We could of course serve coffee, cider, and hot chocolate (but without the rum – dang) in outdoor markets, but it’s just not the same… Glühwein is as much a part of Advent/Christmas/winter here as are the Christmas Markets themselves. When it’s bitterly cold outside, maybe even snowing, you may think that wandering around an outdoor market is the last thing a sane person would want to do. But that is not the case! In fact, those conditions are the best for a Christmas Market outing, and why? Because of the Glühwein.
Glühwein is mulled wine – red wine that is infused with spices (e.g. cinnamon, cloves, orange, etc.) and served hot. And it has that special characteristic of warming you up from the inside out. So when your fingers and toes are freezing, and snowflakes are clinging to your hat and shoulders, you barely even notice because you are so wrapped up in the festive atmosphere, charmed by the company of good friends, and just happy from the warm drink in your hand.
It also has the smell of Christmas, and who doesn’t love that?
If you want to bring a little of this European Christmas flair to your next gathering, you might try making some Glühwein at home. It’s one of those drinks that everyone makes a little different, and the best recipe is the one that has been passed down from your Oma, but why not start a new tradition now? Here’s a basic recipe with which you can start, and spice/sweeten just how you like:
1 bottle of red wine
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
10 whole cloves
1. In a saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer.
2. Cut the orange in half, and squeeze the juice into the simmering water. Embed the cloves in the orange peel, and place peel in the simmering liquid. Continue simmering for 30 minutes, until thick and syrupy.
3. Pour in the wine, and heat until almost boiling, but not quite. Remove the clove-studded orange halves. Ladle into mugs.