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The Greatness that is Gluhwein

Mulled Wine, also known as Gluhwein or Glogg

It’s fall, and it's getting close to winter. That means we can officially break out the sweaters, warm socks, and light up the fireplaces. In our house, that also means mulled wine, or gluhwein. If you have never tasted this warm, delightful drink, you are missing out. In fact, stop reading this and go straight to a store and buy a bottle and then read this while you enjoy your first glass.

We joke. But in all seriousness, gluhwein is a cold weather favorite for many people throughout the world and throughout history. Not only does it smell amazing and permeate your whole house as you prepare it, you feel good drinking it. You will not care how bad the weather is outside when you have a warm glass of gluhwein in your hands.

But where did gluhwein come from? And what is the best way to make gluhwein? Read below for some history and a few recipes to try.

History of Mulled Wine, or Gluhwein

There are conflicting reports of when exactly mulled wine came into existence. Some believe it originated with the Greeks who invented this drink to use up the low-quality wine and make it drinkable. They were said to have called it hippocras, after Hippocrates.

Others say it wasn’t until the second century with the Romans who wanted a way to warm up their bodies in the cold winter. The Romans called it Conditum Paradoxum and the recipe exists today. It was one part wine, one part honey, then heated and reduced. They added pepper, bay leaf, saffron, and dates.

Regardless of whether it was the Greeks or Romans, mulled wine has been around for a LONG time.

As the Middle Ages rolled through, Europeans started to add spices to keep their bodies healthy and fight diseases. Plagues were a serious issue, and water was easily contaminated. They also added herbs and flowers to add sweetness and make low quality wine taste better.

As time marched on, the popularity of mulled wine wanted across the continent, except in Sweden. In this cold country, the popularity grew, and several variations became well-known and loved from the poor classes up to the monarchy.

Merriam Webster decided that the first time “mull” was used as a verb was in 1618. Mull means to “heat, sweeten, and flavor with spices.” People continued to develop more alternatives to this warm drink, and in the 1600’s it started to be known as glogg. This trend continued until the late 1800s when glogg started to become associated with Christmas. Many people attribute this association to Charles Dickens, who included a mulled wine in A Christmas Carol. Wineries distributed bottles with their version of this spiced wine often with illustrations of Saint Nick and the world’s love of mulled wine was back.

Today, if you are in Germany or Austria and visit the Christmas markets, known as Christkindlmarkte, you will be shocked at the number of places and ways to get gluhwein. Thousands of locals and tourists enjoy this warm drink together.

Now, mulled wine is enjoyed worldwide with many different countries that are known for their blends. Some are made with red wine, others white. Some are fortified, and some contain fruit. But all of them warm you up on a cold, winter’s night.

How to Make Mulled Wine

There are COUNTLESS recipes to make a good gluhwein or glogg. There a few basic principles that are consistent across the board.

You need wine.

You need spices.

You need heat.

Once you have the basics down, the possibilities are endless. However, here are a couple recipes we have loved over the years.

Port Mulled Wine

2 bottles red wine, any variety, preferably cheap

2 shots of port

2 oranges, cut in 5-6 wedges and stuffed with cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

3 tablespoons brown sugar, more or less depending on preference

Heat all ingredients in large saucepan on LOW heat for 20-30 minutes, being careful not to boil. Strain into a pitcher and enjoy!

Brandy Gluhwein

2 lemons

2 oranges

10 whole cloves

5 cardamom pods

2 star of anise

1 cup sugar, white or brown

1 cup water

2 cinnamon sticks

2 bottles red wine, preferably dry and cheap

½ cup brandy

Cheesecloth and butcher’s twine

Slice lemons and oranges, place in pot.

Place cloves, cardamom, and star of anise in cheesecloth and tie with twine, place in pot.

Add sugar, water, and cinnamon sticks to pot. Heat on high to dissolve sugar.

Reduce to low heat and simmer until mixture is reduced by ⅓. Stir regularly.

Pour wine and brandy into syrup. Simmer on low for 10 minutes. Remove spice bundle.

Mulled Wine with Juice

1 orange

4 cups apple juice

2 tablespoons honey

1 2-inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced

5 whole allspice berries

5 cinnamon sticks

1 bottle dry red wine

Peel the zest from the orange, save orange for another use.

In a large pot, combine the zest, juice, honey, ginger, allspice, and cinnamon for 20 minutes.

Add wine and cook another 10 minutes.

Strain out spices and serve.

There is no one right recipe. Every recipe can be adjusted to your own personal taste. The only right way to drink this wine is warm and when it is cold.

So your next steps should include running to the store, getting some cheap wine and a variety of spices and citrus, then go home, heat it up together, and enjoy!

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