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Best Holiday Mulled Wine (or Glögg, Glühwein, Svařák)


For some reason I have found myself in Scandinavian and Eastern European countries during the winter months and although the weather can be a bit frigid, the experience has always been memorable.  Recent visits to Amsterdam, Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, and Prague proved not only beautiful to see around the holidays, but each city also offered its own version of a warm libation to combat the cold temperatures – mulled wine. If you find yourself in just about any European destination in December you are bound to come across a local version of their mulled wine. Whether it’s Glühwein (in Netherlands and Germany), Glögg (in Scandinavia), or Svařák (Czech) this spiced wine concoction with warm your body and spirit. While the basis of mulled wine is pretty much the same, each region has a slightly different take on the recipe. The Swedes add raisins and almonds, as well as more sugar than most and usually a healthy dose of extra alcohol like Aquavit or vodka. In Germany, you´ll find a lighter, less sweet version – theirs has less sugar than Glögg and more spices like nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. This is a great drink to make at home for parties and fill your house with a most comforting winter spice aroma - perfect for the holidays. (Note: if you want to include almonds and raisins, just add them after you strain the wine and let it stand for 10 minutes – ladle a few nuts and raisins into each cup when serving - Swedish style!).


3 cinnamon sticks (3 inches each)

10 whole cloves

10 whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon allspice berries

1 star anise (optional)

2 bottles red wine, medium- or full-bodied

2 cups apple cider (optional)

4 strips orange zest removed with vegetable peeler, each strip about 2 inches long by 1/2 inch wide, cleaned of any white pith

1 inch piece fresh gingerroot, thinly sliced

¼ cup honey

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar (if needed, to taste)

2 – 4 tablespoons brandy

(1/3 cup raisin and 1/3 cup whole blanched almonds, optional, see note above)

1. Toast cinnamon sticks, cloves, peppercorns, and allspice (and anise if using) in medium heavy-bottomed nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add wine, cider, orange zest, gingerroot, honey, and 1/4 cup sugar; cover partially and bring to simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to low and simmer 1 hour until wine is infused; do not boil.

2. Strain wine through fine-mesh strainer; return wine to saucepan and discard spices. Stir 2 tablespoons brandy into wine; taste and add up to 2 tablespoons more sugar and 2 tablespoons more brandy, if desired. Ladle wine into small mugs; serve immediately. (It is best served immediately after mulling but will keep fairly hot off heat, covered, for about 30 minutes. Leftover mulled wine can be reheated in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stovetop.)


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