I’ve made it no secret about how much I love European Christmas Markets, especially those in Germany and Austria. I have a million reasons why but I’d be lying if I said that the gluhwein wasn’t one of them. Which is funny, because back in 2011, when I first visited European Christmas markets, I didn’t like wine. But gluhwein was different. I loved the spicy sweetness of it. I loved the festive little mugs that it came in. I loved that it was the best go-to for warming up and that nobody judged me for having a mug at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I loved everything about it. And then I made the mistake of coming home back to freezing cold Canada without a gluhwein recipe.
As Christmas came around with my family and friends, I craved gluhwein. When the snow storms hit and I have to shovel my door every hour so I didn’t get trapped inside, I craved gluhwein. And when the temperature dropped to -40C and the news forecasts were raving about extreme cold and frostbite warnings, I really craved gluhwein.
Which is why, when I went back for Christmas markets again in 2015, I made sure that I came home with an authentic gluhwein recipe.
What the Heck is Gluhwein?
So, what is gluhwein? Essentially, it’s a hot, spiced, red wine drink that has been made very popular during the winter season in Germany and Austria. At every Christmas market, you can find several gluhwein vendors, each serving their own variation of the drink. Some are sweeter, some are drier, some are spicier. I usually try them from a couple of different vendors then choose the one I like the most and go back. (The mugs are small, ok? Don’t judge me).
What’s the History Behind Gluhwein?
Gluhwein actually dates back hundreds of years and the name itself, Gluhwein, translates to “glow-wine”. Which, when you think of it, makes perfect sense because once you drink it you definitely feel all warm and toasty or ‘glowy’.
While the drink is typically considered to be German, gluhwein or variants of it are popular across several European countries including not just Germany and Austria but also Scandinavian countries, France, and the Netherlands. The base of the drink, mulled wine, is the same but each country has their own mix of spices that they add to it.
Why do I need a Gluhwein Recipe? Can’t I just Buy it?
Yes, you can buy gluhwein in Germany and Austria by the bottle. Many of the vendors sell bottles of their own recipe that you can bring home with you. Which is nice, but, there are a few downsides to relying on this method for your gluhwein fix. Firstly, bottles are pretty heavy and you’ll have to check your luggage to get it home. Secondly, even if you do have checked luggage and lots of room, bottles can be quite fragile. The last thing anyone wants is a gluhwein explosion over all your clothes. And, most importantly, it doesn’t last forever. So what do you do when it’s gone? Let’s be honest, buying gluhwein is just prolonging the pain of knowing that you will soon be without it. Which is why you should pay attention to the next section where I share my gluhwen recipe, so you can make some at home too.
The Story Behind my Recipe
Before I share my magical gluhwein recipe with you, I figure you should have a bit of a backstory. After all, I’m not German or Austrian, so how do you know it’s the real deal.
Well, in December of 2015 I brought my mom to Europe to experience the Christmas markets with me. We decided to take a break from the outdoors and went for high tea at The Ritz Carleton in Vienna (swanky, I know). It was delicious but the best part was the gluhwein (I guess, technically, we went for high gluhwein rather than high tea). At the end of the tea, we waved the server over, who happened to be a nice looking young man, and I shamelessly begged him for the gluhwein recipe.
I like to think he found me charming with my Canadian accent (eh!), but it’s probably more likely that he just wanted me to leave as soon as possible. Either way, it worked because he went into the kitchen came back a short while later with a lovely, thick piece of cardstock with a hand-written recipe for ‘Traditional Austrian Gluhwein’ compliments of the chef.
It’s been a few years now since I got that gluhwein recipe and it still holds a place of honour on the side of my fridge. I’ve made it more times than I can count and am already waiting for the snow to fall so I can start up again.
Ready to try it yourself?
Authentic Gluhwein Recipe
- 2 bottles of red wine (a dry wine is the norm. Nothing expensive or fancy)
- 2 cups of water
- 150 grams of sugar
- 6 whole cloves
- 3 whole cinnamon sticks
- Peels from 2 oranges
1.Boil the water with the sugar until the sugar is dissolved
2. Reduce the heat until no longer boiling, then add the cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel.
3. Reduce the heat to a simmer, then add the wine. Simmer for a minimum of thirty minutes, or up to a couple of hours. Don’t let it boil- it will boil off the alcohol.
4. Strain and serve.
For the best way to serve this gluhwein, you need proper mugs.
SPECIAL Christmas mugs. After all, I bet that this gluhwein recipe will now be a part of your holiday traditions. It’s a part of mine!
For classic Christmas mugs, try these Night Before Christmas set.
For some cute/fun Christmas mugs, try these reindeer mugs
Or, if you love National Lampoon, then you totally need these moose mugs.