Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

When I lived in Sacramento, one of my favorite Christmas traditions was the Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) at the Turn Verein, a German community center in my old neighborhood. After browsing craft tables, buying a Christmas tree ornament, German Christmas cookies and maybe a sausage sandwich, I would make a visit to the glühwein stand.

Glühwein is a mulled spiced red wine fortified with a bit of liquor. There’s nothing better than a walk home on a chilly day with a steaming cup of glühwein in hand. I suppose that’s illegal but who’s to know. Besides, ’tis the season, officer.

This recipe is pretty flexible. I started long ago with a recipe that made gallons of glühwein. I cut back the ingredients, improvised a bit and ended up with this one. However, it’s different every year depending on the wine. Give it a taste after it’s heated up to decide if you want to add more spice, fruit or sugar.

Don’t go too cheap on your choice of wine; otherwise your glühwein could taste a bit vinegary when heated up. The less oak in your wine, the better for this recipe. I recommend Beaujolais, Garnarcha, Nero d’Avola, Pinot Noir, Syrah (Shiraz) or Zinfandel.

A crockpot of this makes the house smell like Christmas. It’s a great beverage to serve before dinner, at a party or just to warm up a chilly afternoon. I’ve stored leftover glühwein in the refrigerator for a day or two, covered, and heated it back up in a crockpot. Make some this afternoon and enjoy it as you wrap presents, make dinner and hang out with your loved ones.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Gluhwein | Grabbing the Gusto

Gluhwein | Grabbing the Gusto (photo by Shane)


You’ll need a crockpot or large saucepan, and a piece of cheesecloth (optional).

  • 1.5 liters dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup granulated or brown sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 cloves, whole
  • Optional – 2 crushed cardamom pods, 2 star anise
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon mace
  • 3/4 cup brandy
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced

Set crock pot to low and pour in the wine. As it begins to warm, add the 1/2 cup sugar. If you have cheesecloth, enclose the spices in a square of cloth, tie it off and add to the pot, otherwise just drop them in. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the brandy, orange and lemon. Steep for about one hour over low heat.

Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if you wish, stirring well so it dissolves. Turn the crockpot to warm or turn off the heat completely, keeping it covered, until you’re ready to serve.

Serve hot. Ladle into glasses. I like footed glasses with handles (Irish coffee glasses). Garnish each glass with an orange slice, cinnamon stick and/or star anise pod.

Merry Christmas!

Gluhwein | Grabbing the Gusto

Gluhwein | Grabbing the Gusto (photo by Leon Brocard)

One thought on “Warm Up with Glühwein on Christmas Eve

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