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Making your Own Gluhwein

Making your Own Gluhwein

The temperatures are dropping and while you’ll be the hit of the block if you blast the heat and serve up some delicious pitchers of Sangria, a more seasonably appropriate choice would be to serve your guests a delicious mug of Gluhwein, a mulled red wine popular in German-speaking countries and the Alsace region of France.

Gluhwein, or “glow-wine” is a mix of dry red wine, citrus fruit, raisins and spices. The drink is enjoyed at outdoor Christmas markets in Germany and Austria and will bring a festive glow to any holiday party. The name comes from the glowing pokers that were used to heat the wine traditionally. This is an easy drink to make and serve and like any good cocktail, you can experiment to make it your own. Please leave a comment with your ideas

The Basics

Gluhwein has a few standard ingredients found in every version and makes for a good place to start and learn how you like it – then you can go as crazy as you’d like, adding flavors and enhancements to suit your taste.


A dry red makes the best foundation for a good gluhwein. Popular options include cabernet sauvignon, beaujolais nouveau, and cabernet franc.


Think savory when picking spices for gluhwein: cardamom, cinnamon, clove. While you can also use vanilla (the real stuff, not extract!), stick to three spices as a maximum if all are savory – otherwise you can over spice and lose some of the subtle complexities. If you like anise, it is also a great addition to gluhwein, but the flavor can be strong – experiment before making for a party!


Citrus is the standard when it comes to making a basic gluhwein and you can’t get any more basic than oranges and lemons.


Sweetener is often viewed as optional when it comes to gluhwein but using it provides the perfect way to round out the dryness of the wine, tang of the citrus and spice of the spices. Because this is a hot drink, you can skip the standard simple syrup you have to make for cold cocktails and simply use plain white sugar, which will melt easily into your drink. Skip on the sugar substitutes, especially splenda, when making cocktails.


Most gluhwein is drunk with a shot of brandy, incorporate brandy into your recipe to guarantee a uniform flavor and easier serving.

Some Extras

Gluhwein is a traditional drink so you’ll want to learn to make the basic version first but, as with all cocktails, you should feel free to experiment. While not nearly as popular as the red version, it is possible to make a white gluhwein but be sure to stay away from acidic whites – they become harsh to the point of undrinkable when heated. Use a little honey with your white gluhwein to soften it and feel free to throw in freshly sliced ginger and apple brandy for a nice balance to the wine.

To finish off your mugs of gluhwein in the prettiest way possible, be sure to garnish. Cinammon sticks, orange peel spirals, nicely opened cloves… keep it simple and it will complement the mug of steaming wine beautifully.

The Formula

Here is a basic breakdown of ingredients followed by step by step instructions for making a delicious, simple, starter gluhwein.

Citrus2 lemons/2 oranges
Wine2 bottles
Cloves10 whole
Cinnamon2 sticks
Cardamom5 pods
Sugar1 ¼ cups
Brandy½ cup
Water1 ¼ cups


Large saucepan

vegetable or fruit peeler


cooking twine


  1. Peel the fruit’s zest in wide strips avoiding as much of the white pith as possible.
  2. Juice the fruit.
  3. Place the cardamom and cloves in the cheesecloth and tie it tightly with twine.
  4. Place all ingredients except for the wine and brandy in a large saucepan and turn the heat to high. Stir constantly to melt the sugar. When it starts to simmer reduce to low and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until it has reduced by a third.
  5. Add the alcohol (wine and brandy), stir and bring to JUST a simmer (do not allow the mixture to boil). Remove to heat and take out the spice bundle before serving.

Bringing this hot drink to a party (bring in a water tight container and then just place in a slow cooker on the warm or low setting, you don’t want it to bubble at all once it’s cooked) and enjoy a traditional German holiday drink with friends and family!

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