How to Make Glühwein
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
We moved to Germany in the summer of 2009. My husband was active duty U.S. Air Force, and we were stationed at Spangdahlem, a small base just 30 minutes from the Belgian border, and we lived in a cute little town off-base called Bitburg.
I loved Germany, but I never lived anywhere that was this cold before. It was summer and the temperatures during the day were around what they are here in Florida in December. It was bone-chilling cold.
Like, all the time.
By the time December rolled around, we got our first taste of snow. And of what Christmas was like. It was magical. Everything that we know and love about Christmas comes from Germany, including old St. Nick himself.
Germany covered in snow looks like you’re living in a snow globe. I took tons of pictures because it was just the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
Germans celebrate something every single month. They love festivals, but December is even more special. The Christmas markets are amazing – full of hand-crafted treasures, chestnuts roasting on an open fire in the center of town, food like you’ve never seen, and so much more.
And then there’s the Glühwein. As soon as we arrived at our first Christmas market, I smelled it. Its spicy aromas filled my nostrils and immediately warmed my soul. Glühwein (pronounced "glu-vine) is how Germans, and many other cold climate people, keep warm in the cold, cold days and nights of the late fall and winter months when the days are very short and the nights are so long.
Glühwein is a mulled wine with citrus and spices like cinnamon, clove, and star anise. The literal translation is "glow wine." It certainly puts a glow in your cheeks when you drink it in the cold air.
The wafting fragrance alone smells like Christmas. And once the warming wine touches your lips, it feels like your insides are thawing from your bones.
I was lucky enough to have someone teach me how it’s made, and it quickly became a new tradition in our house. Every December, I made at least two batches of it. On cold, dark nights, nothing tastes or feels as wonderful as a mug of Glühwein.
Since coming back to the States, I found several recipes online for Glühwein. The one from The Kitchn.com is the one I’ve been using, and it’s spot-on (except I don't put 20 whole cloves, I only use 5 to 6 whole cloves.) Try adding amaretto or spiced rum. Mmmmm!
The secret is to use a red wine you like to drink. Don’t just use any throw-away, crappy wine. If you don’t like drinking it by itself, then you won’t like it much in your gluhwein, either.
I typically use a good cabernet, but I’ve also used pinot noir. I haven’t tried it with one of my favorite California red blends yet, but I may try that this year.
The thing is, if you use a good wine that you already love to drink, then mulling it with spices will be that much better.
And don’t buy that stuff in a bottle. It’s not that great, and it’s so easy to make fresh at home yourself. That stuff in a bottle will make you tilt your head and think, “What’s the big deal? This ain’t all that!”
Make some Glühwein this year. It will warm your spirits. And you’ll thank me later.