Nothing else quite warms up a cold winter’s night like Glühwein does. A hot spiced wine, this winter cocktail warms you through – from your fingers as you cozy them around your mug all the way to the tips of your toes. Ahhh. Now it’s the holidays. 

Glühwein is super easy to make. And with its head-to-toe warming factor, this hot spiced wine is perfect for solstice walks. It’s perfect for snowflake-specked nights around the bonfire. It’s perfect for sitting in front of a crackling fireplace with a good book. Basically it’s perfect for all things winter.

What is Glühwein?

Glühwein is mulled – or spiced – wine, traditionally served up at Christmas markets in Germany.

It’s simply gently warmed red wine, simmered with warm winter spices like cinnamon and cloves. Then it’s sweetened with sugar, balanced with a bit of citrus, and – if you’re me – boozed up a bit more with a slug of brandy.

There are many names and variations served at Christmas markets all across Europe. Glogg, wassail, mulled wine, hot wine … or, of course, Glühwein – which literally translates to “glow wine.” Makes sense to me! (Where I learned that and more about the history of Glühwein can be found here.) 

In our house back here in the U.S., we call it Glühwein because the first time we tried mulled wine, it was a Glühwein. And … it was in a German theme town in our state, right here in the U.S. (Hangs head in shame.) 

I know, I know. I wish we had an incredible story about a decades-ago wintertime stroll at an actual European Christmas Market. And that’s definitely a life goal. 

Instead, our mulled-wine story took place several years ago on a frosty evening as we strolled the shops of Leavenworth, Washington. We ducked into a wine tasting shop and came out with our mittens wrapped around a warm mug of steaming, intoxicating goodness that warmed us from our noses to our toes.

And we’ve been recreating and refining our own Glühwein recipe back at home ever since. We love it, our guests love it, and I hope you don’t mind me sharing our recipe with you even though our experience – and recipe – might not be the most authentic you’ll find.

What are the Best Mulled Wine Spices for Glühwein?

For the best and easiest Glühwein, I take a cue from my Hot Spiced Cider recipe by 1) keeping it simple and 2) starting with a clove-studded orange.

I’ve tried many mulled wine spices in my mulled drinks and have found that a ton of spices is really not necessary – more does not equal merrier! In my opinion, the best mulled wine spices are simply a combination of:

  • Cloves (whole, stuck in an orange)
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • This is not a spice, but for my Glühwein, I love to add some lemon peel too for extra citrussy brightness.

For the cloves and orange combo, not only is it super festive looking, but poking the cloves into the peel of a whole orange helps release the oils in the skin of the orange, adding flavor without bitterness. Plus, it helps contain the cloves so you don’t have to worry about picking a loose one out when you serve your Gluhwein. 

How to Make Glühwein (Hot Spiced Wine)

I add the orange to a medium saucepan over low heat. Then, I add some whole cinnamon sticks and a bottle of light-ish red wine. A low-to-mid-level pinot noir is always a winner for us. Next, stir in some sugar – plain old granulated is a good bet, though some might try honey or brown sugar. I like to keep the sweetener simple in Glühwein so the wine, citrus, and spice flavors really shine through. Oh, and throw in some lemon peels for good measure for a bit more citrus zest. Pun intended. 

Then I bring my spiced wine to just below a simmer and let it mingle with the citrus and spices for about 20 minutes. Then add brandy for some more warming magic. Brandy is such a perfect companion for mulled cocktails that I add it to almost every single one I make. 

So now that it’s obvious that you need Glühwein in your life, here’s the full, printable recipe. Cheers to a happy and cozy winter!

Glühwein (Hot Spiced Red Wine)

5 from 1 vote
A winter cocktail sure to warm you from your head to your toes. Red wine is warmed with spices and citrus, then amped up with a bit of brandy for the coziest holiday drink.
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 each medium organic orange
  • 20 each whole cloves (give or take a few cloves – no need to be exact)
  • 750 ml light red wine (1 bottle, on the drier/lighter side is better. We love Pinot Noir, Lemburger or Merlot can also work)
  • 3 each (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
  • 5 each strips lemon peel (about 2 inches long each, just use a carrot peeler and try to avoid including too much pith)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (start with 1/4 cup and add to taste up to 2/3 cup)
  • 1/3 cup brandy

Optional garnish

  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Orange slices

Instructions

  • Using a toothpick, poke 20 holes all over your orange, then poke the cloves into the holes. 
  • Add orange to a medium saucepan. Pour the wine into the pan. Add the cinnamon sticks, lemon peel, and 1/3 cup sugar. Stir gently to help dissolve the sugar.
  • Turn the heat on medium-low and heat until just below a simmer. Do not boil! Reduce heat to low – just enough to keep warm but again, not simmering or boiling. Cover and let warm over the heat for about 20 minutes, until hot wine is flavored by the spices.
  • Stir in the brandy. Taste and add more sugar if desired. Depending on your wine and tastes, you may only need the intial 1/4 cup of sugar, or you may need the entire 2/3 cup.
  • Ladle into three large or four smaller mugs, garnish if desired, pass 'em out and and inhale your Glühwein goodness.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 266kcal, Carbohydrates: 22g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 24mg, Potassium: 237mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 14g, Calcium: 54mg, Iron: 1mg
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