Perfecting the perfect Glühwein
Upon bustling into a warm restaurant on a chilly night, there is nothing more satisfying than finding a roaring fireplace and Glühwein on the specials menu. The delicious German-Austrian winter brew is served piping hot and steeped in spices; the perfect combination to take the edge off a frosty evening. Translated directly to “glow wine”, the Germanic drink is traditionally brewed in citrus and Christmas spices. If a early Christmas celebration is creeping in on your social calendar – and it certainly is in Cape Town – this is the perfect beverage.
The cold also, however, comes along with inevitable hermit tendencies – even the best of us find ourselves eyeing the rain splattered windows in trepidation from our nest of blankets. Is it worth the trip to Rick’s Cafe just for a glass of Glühwein? Probably not, what with the promise of wet hair, damp squidgy queues and icy breath.
So as you glower in the general direction of your winter woollies and contemplate the evils of leaving your warm nest, think about this. Glühwein is actually one of the simpler winter luxuries you can whip up for yourself at home.
But there’s a trick you see. A sneaky thing you need to know if you want to know how to do this right! It’s all about balance – and the best mulled wine never reeks of cinnamon nor does it slap you in the face with the pungent tang of sun-drenched citrus.
Gather your ingredients. Your local Pick ’n Pay or Woolworths should have everything you need, but if you’re looking for quality whole spices head to Atlas Trading in Cape Town – or any spice shop for that matter.
Cloves, cardamom, star anise, and cinnamon sticks are imperative. If you’re in the mood, throw in a vanilla pod or two, for variety.
Citrus will be next on your list. Traditionally Glühwein is a semi-sweet beverage, and with the naturally acidic tang of red wine, lemons are rarely your friend. Oranges would be your best bet – with grapefruit coming in at a close second. Halve it, juice it and throw the peels into the mix too.
Wine, naturally, is your key ingredient. A good Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot will do the trick. For fear of falling into one’s own fire-place you need to make sure you have about 100ml of water for every bottle of wine. To take the edge off, and a few tablespoons of sugar will help to ‘stew’ the ingredients nicely.
Toss the wine, water and citrus into a pot.
Heat the wine and water at a low temperature until simmering. Never let it boil! Seriously! If it does boil the alcohol will evaporate away and this would not be good!
Next, add your spices. Frugality is key here. Two cinnamon sticks, three cardamom pods, a stick of vanilla (this is optional), three cloves and a star anise are more than enough for every bottle of wine. Throw in the citrus juice as well as the peels and simmer your concoction for just over an hour. This allows ample time for the spices to really work their magic and infuse into the drink.
Enjoy! Some people prefer straining the spices and excess sediment from the batch, while others like the added potency of the beverage as it steeps still further – it’s entirely up to you. Serve hot and theatrically ladled into mugs – topped with a slice of citrus of your choosing – and curled up beside a roaring fire with a book in hand.