I don’t know about you guys, but I am freezing. It’s been 40 degrees at night lately. Horrendous! And although alcohol can warm you up — in a mentally comforting, but not physically helpful way — it’s not what people crave around now. In cold weather like this, you need tea or coffee or hot chocolate. You don’t want iced cocktails. But luckily for the world, hot alcohol exists! And one absolutely delightful form of it is mulled wine. Or as they say in Austria, where I first tried it: gluhwein.
Gluhwein is a hot, spiced wine, usually served in a mug. When you first receive a mug of it, you’re immediately hit by the warmth emanating from the cup in a way that seems alien. In general, most alcohol you consume is going to be either cold or grossly room temperature. It’s almost, but not quite, discomfiting to be consuming a hot wine. And yet, it’s somehow pleasant. Next, you’ll probably notice the smell. Gluhwein is made up of spices like cloves, cinnamon, and star anise. The combination is hearty and comforting to the senses in the same way fresh-baked gingerbread is around the holidays.
When you finally take your first sip, you may feel like you’re choking on wine steam. It is a very specific and oddly rewarding sensation that I highly recommend. But once you get past that, and take your first mouthful: pure warmth and delight. And while the flavor is incredible from the start, it will only build and flourish as you finish your mug and go for seconds and then thirds. There is something comforting about getting intoxicated on gluhwein versus a regular temperature cocktail that makes you feel strangely nostalgic — regardless of whether you’ve ever drank it before.
Over quarantine, I made Lily Kelting’s “German Gluhwein” recipe from the kitchen. The recipe calls for half of a medium orange, three-fourths of a cup of water, one-fourth of a cup of sugar, 20 whole cloves, two cinnamon sticks, two whole star anise, a bottle of dry red wine and an optional addition of rum or amaretto. To make it, you simply zest and juice the orange and combine it with the spices. Then you make a simple syrup and add the mixture from the last step in. After about a minute of simmering, you should have a wonderful-smelling syrup in your pan. And finally, you add in the red wine and simmer on low for anywhere between 20 minutes and a few hours. Just be careful not to let it reach a full simmer, or else the alcohol will cook-off. All that’s left to do once it’s done is to strain it into a couple of mugs and enjoy!
If you’re sick of same-old-same-old chilled alcoholic beverages, it’s time to get out of your comfort zone and simmer up some gluhwein. It’s more seasonal and you’ll soon find it’s exactly what you need to make it through this freezing cold semester.