Since none of us are doing the Christmas travel we want this year, I’m bringing a bit of Christmas markets home with glühwein and vin brulé!Jump to Recipe
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One of the staples I’m missing most from Christmas markets this year is glühwein or vin brulé!
Glühwein is the german name for mulled wine. It’s the most common drink available at the markets and it’s a quintessential part of the experience.
Picture it: you walk up to a Christmas market, resplendent in lights and color. Wooden booths sell everything from handmade candies to knitted hats to ornaments. First stop is always at a booth with glühwein!
Mulled wine is common in northern Italy too during winter. Here, it’s called vin brulé. Yes, that’s French and not Italian. No, no one knows why it’s called that. I’ve been asking (The French call mulled wine vin chaud. Truly a mystery.)
Here’s the funny secret of glühwein: every town, every village, even every family has their traditional recipe. It’s been passed down for generations. But they’re all a little different! So after trying a LOT of glühwein and vin brulé – trying to be a good researcher, obviously – here’s my recipe and a few tips to get you started.
Traditionally it’s served in a mug, and I kind of love the feeling of carrying it As long as you haven’t brought it to a boil, you can serve it in wine glasses if you’d rather. I tend to use my plastic ones just in case (these are game changers for balcony parties!) but generally, if you can put them in the dishwasher, they can handle vin brulé.
The most important part: never let glühwein boil. This cooks off the alcohol, which isn’t the goal. You can leave it heating on the stove for a few hours if you want, but the heat must be low enough to not bubble. For a party, I’d heat it on the stove and then transfer it to a slow cooker so I don’t have to watch it.
Below I’ve shared my go-to recipe, with a few optional additions or substitutions. Some people will swear that you need apple juice and oranges, others will say that’s a different drink entirely. Here’s the baseline:
- red wine. Crucial. Like any punch, you don’t need a nice bottle. I prefer a medium-bodied one, not too dry but definitely not sweet. Cabernet Sauvignon is my go-to. You can find regional glühwein with white wine or even blueberry wine, but they’re much less popular. If you experiment, watch how much extra sweetness you add.
- oranges. There’s a general consensus that you need both peel and juice. Use a peeler to get wide strips of peel instead of zesting into the pot for much easier serving and clean up.
- spices. The usual suspects are cloves, cinnamon, and star anise. I tend to stick to these three, but optional add-ins are vanilla or cardamom. I like the classic best.
- sweetener. There’s a lot of variance here. I think vin brulé tends to be a bit less sweet than glühwein but they’re not markedly different. This is a personal preference thing – some are crazy sweet, so I’ll give you a range. Sweeteners include simple syrup, honey, and apple cider.
- booze. Good vin brulé always has brandy added at the end. Glühwein usually has the option to add rum or another liquor. I love the brandy option, but usually add about half a shot to keep the wine as the primary flavor.
Now that you know how easy glühwein is to make at home, put some on the stove for a lovely Christmas evening at home!
For the record: my favorite recipe is all the mandatory ingredients with none of the add ins. I add about 2 tbsp brandy at the end to each serving – just under 1 shot.
Glühwein – Vin Brulé
- ¾ cup water
- ¼ cup turbinado or granulated sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 20 whole cloves
- 2 star anise
- ½ orange
- 750 ml red wine (1 bottle)
- 3-4 shots brandy for serving
- 1 cup apple cider or unsweetened apple juice
- 2 tbsp honey
- ½ lemon
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 seeds cardamom
- Combine water and sugar in a medium pot over medium heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved. Use a peeler to make strips of orange peel.
- Lower heat and add the orange peels, spices, and any optional ingredients to the pan. Squeeze in the orange juice and simmer for a minute or two.
- Add the wine and stir. Heat on very low heat for at least 15 minutes, making sure to not boil.
- When serving, add 1-2 Tbsp (up to a shot) of brandy to each cup of glühwein.
- Glühwein can sit over heat for a few hours, but it should never bubble.
If we can’t get vin brulé at a Christmas market, at least we can make it at home!
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