Glühwein is a spiced hot mulled wine, commonly prepared in fall and winter in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
The alcoholic beverage is a must-have german holiday drink at the Christmas markets and après ski parties in the mountains.
It's guaranteed to warm you up from within!
What is Glühwein?
Glühwein is a hot mulled wine infused with whole spices and orange slices.
You might have come across a hot spiced Glühwein beverage before when visiting a German-speaking country before the Christmas holidays or during an Apré Ski Party in the mountains..
The purpose of a Gluehwein is to warm up the body from within on those freezing cold days in winter.
Glühwein in german and directly translated it would say glow wine, which refers to the fact that the german Christmas wine is hot and that we will "glow from within".
So, to make the classic mulled wine recipe from scratch you will need the following ingredients for my recipe:
- Red Wine - not too expensive but a good one (see further below for wine recommendation
- Cinnamon stick
- Star Anis
- Vanilla Bean or Vanilla extract
- Orange - Needs to be untreated organic (no pesticides) because we use the skin in the mulled wine.
The Christmas wine spices are always whole spices because the flavors are purer and true to a traditional gluhwein recipe.
Find the checklist for the ingredients in the recipe card further below!
How to make it?
I broke down the steps to make Glühwein from scratch.
Find the complete recipe with ingredients, instructions + video at the bottom of the post in the recipe card.
Cut your orange into thick slices.
I like to poke the clove spice into the oranges, that prevents the spice from falling into the mulled wine and it looks nice.
Slit open your vanilla bean and scratch out the seeds.
Pour the wine and water into a sauce pan and heat up.
Place the orange slices into the pan with the cloves and throw in the star anise, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean with seeds and Nutmeg.
Allow the spices and orange slices to mull in the red wine over slow heat for about 20 minutes
The wine should never boil or else the alcohol will evaporate.
Leave to infuse further on the heat and pick out spices and orange slices when done infusing.
Warm up your mulled wine and sweeten it with sugar to your liking.
Is Glühwein the same as mulled wine?
Glühwein is somewhat a variety of mulled wine, so to say a wine that you mull slowly over the heat and along with different spices and orange flavors.
Mulled wine is prepared the same way, which is common in Britain for example, just that the ingredients are different.
Spiced warm wine drink must have been common in Europe since Bacchus, the Greek wine god, introduced wine to us poor mortals.
So yes, the german hot wine is related to other mulled wines across Europe such as the Nordic Glögg and the Russian Glintwein.
The advent period (4 Sundays before Christmas) is the time of the year when you indulge the magic of Christmas to its fullest.
For that reason you will see typical Christmas markets, better known as Christkindlmarkt, selling the so-called Glühwein to the visitors in Austria, Bavaria in Germany and Switzerland.
It's an incredible experience to spend time with your family and friends in such a Christmas market, with the snow crystals falling from heaven, the voice of the carols enchanting your senses, the beautiful colored warm lights, the aroma of sweets and baked goods and you with a cup of hot the best mulled wine warming your heart from within.
Another occasion, where it is common to drink Glühwein, is the 5th of December.
The 6th of December is commonly known as St.Nikolas day and that's the day when the Saint comes to bring Chocolates, Sweets, and Oranges to well-behaved Children.
But before St.Nikolas visits with his angles, the demons come back to life to take with them the naughty kids and that's what the 5th is all about.
Those demons from old times are young boys and the man from the Village in the mountains, wearing thick stinking mutton furs, huge hand-carved demon face masks, and massive bells.
You get the idea why at that point you would need an alcoholic infused german mulled wine!
Homemade VS store-bought
So, while some believe that preparing Gluhwein from scratch is difficult, it actually doesn't involve much work from your side if you know what ingredients to add.
Recently, grocery stores like Aldi have been selling ready-made Gluehwein and mulled wine packages all over the world, so people tend to think it's an elaborate thing to make Gluehwein at home.
Folks you will rejoice because there is seriously no extra work involved in preparing Glühwein from scratch.
You just need to throw in all the wonderful spices and orange slices and, there you have your own homemade flavorful Gluehwein!
And the upside is that you can always adjust the flavors to your ultimate liking.
Make Gluhwein a couple of times and experiment with the spices!
You will see its fun and so rewarding!
Choice of wine
Pick as a base a fruity and flavorful stronger wine for your Glühwein.
Don't go for a sweet soft wine as it becomes difficult to adjust the sugar quantity.
You want a wine with character!
That means you can pick something like a Merlot or Pinot Noir.
Other common wines that you can use to make Glühwein are Lemberger and Zweigelt.
December 2019 Update:
A reader suggested picking a sweeter red wine in the comment section because her Glühwein turned out rather bitter with a Merlot.
In that case, you can go for a Lambrusco too, but a port wine might be too sweet (but it will be your choice if you are into sweet beverages).
Also, a Madeira might be an option for you.
I personally still recommend a not so sweet wine to make Glühwein.
Warming up mulled wine
Just pour the spiced wine into a saucepan or small pot and keep on medium heat for a few minutes until it gets hot.
The mulled wine should never boil because the flavors get way too intense and change it a bit bitter.
Don't reheat the mulled wine in the microwave, the effect will be the same as boiling the Gluehwein, the flavors will change and give the hot wine drink a burned taste.
Keeping it warm
Pour your Glühwein into Thermos.
It will keep your Christmas mulled wine nice and hot for hours if you use a good quality Thermos.
I love my Klean Kanteen Thermos for this exact reason and I totally recommend it!
My Glühwein remains hot for 8 hours in the Klean Kanteen Thermos.
Glühwein is often while spelled wrongly. We write Glühwein in German-speaking countries, which can be also written as Gluehwein. In some English speaking countries, it is often while also just spelled as Gluhwein (which is a bit wrong to a German-speaking ear)
German gluhwein tastes like a hot wine infused with classic holiday spices with real orange flavors. The aroma is intense and relaxing.
Gluhwein is a mulled wine that consists mainly of alcohol. If you prepare the recipe as per direction and take out the spices, you can store your gluhwein in a bottle in a cool and dark place. Your german spiced wine will be good for the coming weeks.
Holiday Beverage ideas
- Tyrolean Jagatee - Schnapps infused hot beverage
- White Chocolate Liqueur
- Caribbean Sorrel Drink
- Cranberry Moscow Mule by spoonfulofflavor.com
Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comment section further below!
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- Wash your orange well to get rid of impurities, pat dry and cut into thick slices.
- Poke cloves into orange slices. This is to prevent the spices to fall into the mulled wine, and it will be easier to collect them afterward. Besides, it looks great too.
- Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scratch out and collect the vanilla bean seeds.
- Pour wine into a saucepan with the water and heat up gradually.
- Place orange slices with cloves into the pan. Also add the vanilla bean with scratched out seeds, cinnamon stick, anise and nutmeg
- Keep on slow heat (it should never boil!) and cover the pot for 15-20 minutes. You can keep the mulled wine to infuse away from the heat if you like.
- Take out all the spices and orange slices. You can strain the mulled wine too if you don't want the fruit pulp in it.
- Make sure your mulled wine is kept on a steady heat. Sweeten your gluhwein to your liking and serve hot.
- Use only untreated unpoisend oranges because you use the orange with the skin in this recipe to infuse the hot spiced wine. Check if organic means treated without chemicals in your country (not the norm in every country)
- If you can't get a vanilla bean use a few drops vanilla extract or use vanilla bean paste.
- Pick a flavorful red wine with character. You can also use Pinot Noire or Merlot.