Known as glühwein in Germany, vin chaud in France, or glögg in Sweden, mulled wine—often paired with an orange slice and sweet cookie—is a longtime café staple in European winters. But you don’t need to go overseas to try this spicy, fragrant sipper. Cultural festivals, like German Christmas markets in New Orleans and Arlington, Texas, embrace this recipe for the holiday season.
“We associate warm drinks with winter holiday celebrations without understanding why we make this connection,” says New Orleans-based drinks historian and Drink & Learn podcast co-host Elizabeth Pearce. From hot cider and eggnog to mulled wine, festive drinks are deep-rooted in the culture of celebration, she explains. “Holiday food and drink are the traditions we are most likely to hang onto from our past.”
The practice of spicing wine dates back to antiquity as ancient Greeks and Romans enhanced the flavor of wine with a healthy dose of spices, Pearce explains. In the Middle Ages, the European spice trade introduced a taste of far-away places, so for Medieval dinner party hosts, serving wine with seasonings signaled wealth and worldliness to guests. People also believed consuming small amounts of spices aided with digestion, which, Pearce notes, does hold some truth.
Today, mulled wine is beloved not only for its taste and nostalgia, but also for how easy it is to brew at home for a large crowd. The key is starting with the right wine. Pearce recommends a mid-priced, sweeter, and fruit-forward red, like a Merlot or a Zinfandel.
This year, the Deutsches Haus, which celebrates German culture and heritage in the Gulf South, will hold its annual German Christmas Market in New Orleans on December 11 and December 18 with over forty food and shopping vendors, and plenty of mulled wine to go around. Over the years, Rose Mancini, president of Ladies Auxiliary at the Deutsches Haus, has perfected her version of the German Christmas Market glühwein recipe, making it at home each year for holiday parties. She brews and serves her wine in a crockpot, setting aside a ladle for the guests to help themselves. The spicing measurements are adjustable: “It’s yours to make as you want,” Mancini says.