Glühwein is everywhere at the Christkindlmarkts that pop up across Germany this time of year, and I fell in love hard on my first sip. It’s literally translated as glow-wine for a good reason: the hot mug warms your hands, a touch of brandy warms your soul, and the aroma is simply heavenly. The added bonus of making your own at home is that the sweet, spicy scent will fill your house!
You’ll find the usual lineup of holiday spices in classic glühwein – cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and anise are on constant call throughout December – but here I’ve also added a few crushed cardamom pods. Cardamom isn’t traditional, but it adds an extra touch of citrusy, spicy sharpness that I love.
Glühwein can be easily served from a punch bowl or even set out as a centerpiece. Float a few fresh slices of orange and lemon in the hot drink and garnish with extra star anise and cinnamon sticks. Guests can still ladle drinks and the effect is stunning.
I hope this 12 Drinks of Christmas series sparks all sorts of new ideas for celebrating the holidays! I’m sharing a new drink recipe every Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday from Thanksgiving ’til Christmas. Thursday drinks are family-friendly favorites; the rest of the week is cocktails, mulled wines, sangrias, and all sorts of boozy party goodies to celebrate the season. Cheers!
You can omit the brandy for a less boozy drink, or increase the amount of cider. But to really get the full effect, finish your glass off as the Germans do – mit Schuss, with a shot! That wonderful lingering glow will sustain you through wrapping gifts, hanging ornaments, and baking cookies.
Raising a glass in thanks for all of you wonderful friends. Prost!
Photos & recipe updated from original December 2015 post.
German Mulled Glühwein
- 1 orange
- 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 vanilla bean split & scraped, or 1 t. vanilla extract
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 whole nutmeg crushed
- 12 whole cloves
- 5 star anise
- 6 cardamom pods crushed
- 1 bottle fruity red wine
- 1 cup unsweet cider or 100% natural apple juice
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup brandy or bourbon
- Use a vegetable peeler to remove lemon and orange peel, avoiding the white pith.
- Combine citrus peels, vanilla, and spices in a large pot. Squeeze orange and lemon juice and add wine, cider, and brandy.
- Bring to a light simmer and cover. Simmer for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour.
- Pour into a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl. You can save the spices in the strainer for a second batch.
- Stir in brandy and serve hot!