Here’s a fact that’s little known outside the frozen wastes from which I hail: when the temperature dips well below the zero (whatever number you’re imagining, it’s probably not low enough), the membranes inside your nostrils freeze. As sensations go, I’d rank it somewhere between waking up with a sore throat and hitting your thumb with a hammer (or eating durian ice cream). It might not ruin your day, but it’s certainly not fun while it lasts. I assume it’s why the Vikings historically wore beards, though it doesn’t explain why certain cold-weather sports fans are addled enough to wear cheese on their heads.
This is the sort of cold that won’t be defeated by a mere sweater or scarf. Nay, a chill this pervasive demands a stronger response. Luckily for Midwesterners and anyone dealing with more reasonable levels of cold, Germanic and Scandinavian peoples long ago came up with a whole range of non-beard-related technology designed to banish the freeze. Which brings us to glühwein, gløgg and other mulled wines.
Most of these drinks are simply variations on a theme: start with red wine, add a spirit with a little more kick, then heat with spices, sugar and citrus until steaming and fragrant. Add some holiday cheer and a rousing toast and you have a drink that’s guaranteed to drive away any chill.
Glühwein is a Germanic mulled wine with a name that translates roughly to “glow wine”—for the glowing irons once used to heat the wine (though the argument could be made that the name also applies to the rosy hue it brings to the cheeks). There may be a more badass way to heat wine than by plunging a red-hot iron into a cauldron, but if so I have not yet discovered it.
Sadly, Sur La Table does not carry hot irons, and most of us must make do with stovetops and crock-pots. Thankfully, these methods work just fine and don’t carry the same level of risk.
Brew up a pot for family and friends this holiday season and you might not have to fight to snag that coveted space in front of the fire. Prost!
- 750 mL dry red wine
- 1 lemon
- 1 orange
- 4-6 cloves
- 2-3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 cardamom pods
- 3-4 star anise
- ¼ cup sugar (Or to taste. Can be replaced with vanilla sugar if desired)
- ¾ cup water
- ½ cup brandy (Or aquavit for gløgg)
- 1 whole vanilla bean (Optional)
- If desired, spices can be replaced with a generous helping of pre-mixed mulling spices tied into a cheesecloth bundle.
- Tie cloves and cardamom into a small bundle using cheesecloth or a coffee filter.
- Juice and zest citrus.
- Add juice, zest and spice bundle to a large saucepan.
- Add water, sugar, star anise, cinnamon and vanilla, if using. Stir over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Simmer until reduced by approximately one-third.
- Add red wine and brandy. Bring to a simmer while stirring, but do not allow mixture to boil.
- Remove spice bundle and serve glühwein in warm mugs garnished with a cinnamon stick, orange slice and star anise.
- For crock-pot mulled wine, follow steps 1 through 4 on the stovetop, then add all ingredients to a crock-pot and cook on low for several hours. Check regularly to ensure that mixture does not boil. For a non-alcoholic version, replace wine with 100% grape juice (unsweetened if possible) and reduce sugar to 2 Tbsp.
Do you have a favorite hot beverage or one that’s a holiday tradition? Let us know in the comments.
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