German Glühwein

updated Dec 5, 2023

This mulled wine recipe is for the German Glühwein, which literally translates to glow-wine, because of how you feel after you've been drinking tiny mugs outside in December.

Serves4 to 6

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Quick Overview

How to Make Glühwein

To make Glühwein, make a simple syrup and simmer it with some whole spices like cinnamon sticks, cloves, and star anise. Then turn down the heat and let barely simmer for at least 20 minutes and up to 3 hours.

If you want to make it ahead of time, let it cool to room temperature then store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Rewarm in a pot over medium low heat.

Look to the people who survive winters with only a few hours of sunlight each day for the coziest and most heart-warming holiday drinks. The answer, according to Germans, Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, and Danes? Mulled wine.

Here is a basic recipe that will make Glühwein like you would get at a German Christmas market. In fact, many commercial Christmas markets simply reheat a pre-sweetened and pre-spiced mix, so this will likely taste even better.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Ingredients in Glühwein

  • Dry red wine: You don’t want to use anything too sweet (or expensive)! Chianti, cabernet Sauvignon, or pinot noir, would work all well here.
  • Sugar: You can use granulated and turbinado sugar interchangeably in this recipe.
  • Orange: Use both the zest and the fresh juice.
  • Whole spices: Cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves add a lovely and festive warm flavor to the drink.
  • Rum or amaretto: Adding a shot just before serving is optional.

Is Gluhwein Different from Regular Mulled Wine?

There are different regional variations of mulled wine, and the recipe itself is always more of a guideline than a rulebook. Glühwein is traditionally served at stalls at Christmas markets across Germany and Austria to keep people warm as they shop and socialize.

This recipe is for the German Glühwein, which literally translates to glow-wine, because of how you feel after you’ve been drinking tiny mugs outside in December.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Essential Tips for Making Glühwein

Mulling wine is not exactly rocket science, but there are a few tips to keep in mind. The recipe scales very easily for a smaller post-dinner cuddle-up or a holiday crowd.

Heat gently.

The first and most important rule? Do not let the wine boil or you will boil off the alcohol! I tend to let it heat gently for about 20 minutes before my guests arrive.

Use a budget-friendly wine.

It’s also not worth spending a ton of money on the wine here. The best wine for glühwein is a dry red wine such as Chianti to Cabernet Sauvignon.

Experiment with spices.

Germans tend to keep it pretty basic, but you can experiment and add cardamom, vanilla, ginger, or even black pepper. In the Nordic countries, they add blanched almonds and raisins to their gløgg!

Add a shot if desired.

And then there’s the optional Schuss, or shot of hard liquor (usually rum or amaretto). I tend to order and make my Glühwein without it — especially if it’s the first of several glasses — but it does keep you warmer!

German Glühwein

This mulled wine recipe is for the German Glühwein, which literally translates to glow-wine, because of how you feel after you've been drinking tiny mugs outside in December.

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1/2

    medium orange

  • 3/4 cup

    water

  • 1/4 cup

    turbinado or granulated sugar

  • 10 to 20

    whole cloves

  • 2

    cinnamon sticks

  • 2

    whole star anise

  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle

    dry red wine

  • Rum or amaretto, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the orange in wide strips, taking care to avoid the white pith; set aside. Juice the orange and set the juice aside.

  2. Combine the water and sugar in a large, nonreactive saucepan and boil until the sugar has completely dissolved. Reduce the heat and add the cloves, cinnamon, star anise, orange zest, and orange juice. Simmer until a fragrant syrup forms, about 1 minute.

  3. Reduce the heat further and add the wine. Let it barely simmer for at least 20 minutes but up to a few hours. Keep an eye out so that it doesn't reach a full simmer.

  4. Strain and serve in small mugs, adding a shot of rum or amaretto and garnishing with the orange peel and star anise if desired.