History Lesson: Glühwein (A Festive Drink)
By Marriette Rough
With Christmas Market Season drawing in we thought it high time to investigate exactly why every year we drink so much Glühwein. The drink has many other monikers, you may know it as Mulled Wine, Vin Chaud, Glög or perhaps just spiced wine. Essentially it is wine and spices (usually sugar, cinnamon, grated nutmeg, cloves and oranges) heated to just before boiling point before drinking.
The first recorded spiced and heated wine date all the way back to Rome, 2nd Century AD. The Romans travelled all across Europe, conquering much of it and generally getting into quite a lot of mischief. Luckily they brought some heated alcohol to soften the blow!
Glühwein (roughly, “glow-wine” from the hot irons once used for mulling) is very popular in German speaking countries. Traditionally downed by the mug load during the Christmas Holidays. The oldest documented Glühwein tankard is attributed to Count John IV of Katzenelnbogen, a German nobleman who was the first grower of Riesling grapes. This gold plated lockable silver tankard is dated to c. 1420.
Many European countries have their own twist on Glühwein. The Dutchies prefer lemons to oranges. Whilst in Moldova they add black pepper and honey. Across the pond in Quebec they have made it a bit more Canadian friendly by adding maple syrup to the wine. Even in Germany we have a few different variations, one made with white wine rather than red. Then we have Feuerzangenbowle, literally translated to Fire-tongs Punch. A rum soaked sugar loaf is set on fire and allowed to drip into the wine. This is a sure fire way to have both an amazing Christmassy time and also experience a German tasting hangover the next day.
Before you dive into the Markets to taste test these delicacies here are a few points you should know…
1. Don’t be shocked when the bill comes to much more than you expected. You pay a deposit on the mugs that they are served in, which you can either keep or give back in once finished. Each Christmas Market tends to have its own specially designed mugs. You may have just found your excuse to go to each and every different market in Berlin.
2. At the Glühwein stands they will offer you a Schuss with your Glühwein. This is a shot of either Rum or Amaretto tipped in. You should try both. But probably not all at once.
3. Drinking Glühwein tends to give you purple lips, not because of the cold but rather the hot red wine staining them. Know this if you have invited that special someone to drink with you. Luckily everyone has the same issue and its usually dark out anyway !
Merry Glühweining from Fat Tire Tours!