On the opposite but equally stunning pleasure of downing a cold beer on a hot summer day, there’s something almost necessary about sipping a warm boozy beverage watching the Colorado snow fall.
Gluehwein, German for “glow wine,” has become an increasingly popular staple of ski resorts, impromptu camps, and when the weather gets a little chillier and the holidays are approaching. The mulled wine, popular in several northern European countries, has a long, but hazy history.
As far as anybody can tell, mulled wine got its name in the 14th century when wine, fruit and spices were literally “muddled” together. But the drink can be traced back even further.
As to why the Germans tagged on the word “glow,” well, that’s a natural.
It’s suspected that ancient Greeks first combined those ingredients in an effort to prolong the life of wine on the cusp of spoiling. The Romans made a similar concoction, but the drink really gained popularity in the Middle Ages because the spices were thought to have healing properties, according to a report from Hochschule Geisenheim University, a German college that focuses on the education of wine.
Today, the drink is more tradition than practicality or lore.
The Denver Christkindl Market, which runs through the holiday season, serves gluehwein to the 150,000 visitors that shop the outdoor market at Denver Skyline Park each year.
“It’s really popular,” said Natalia Wobst, executive director of the German Greater Chamber of Commerce Colorado chapter, which runs the market each year.
The gluehwein is just about as authentic as it gets, too. The chamber imports thousands of gallons from Bavaria Waldfrucht Gluehwein for the market.
Surprisingly, Wobst said, the mulled wine is easier to import than the mugs that are specially made for the event. Each year the design on the mug changes, commemorating the holiday season with hints of German culture mixed in with a familiar Denver scene.
While gluehwein recipes vary, the Denver Christkindl Market keeps to a classic version: dry red wine with orange and lemon slices mixed along with sugar, cloves and cinnamon. That’s it.
The recipe on the event’s website calls for adding one cup of brandy. Extra glow.
For Herbert Huber, executive chef at Helga’s German Restaurant and Deli in Aurora, the holiday drink is practically a ritual around the holidays, especially after outdoor activities. The drink does seem to have recovery properties by the way it “warms up the insides,” Huber said.
Huber’s family recipe has been passed down 400 years from the Rhineland region of Germany. It includes bay leaves in the recipe, another common ingredient in some gluehwein.
When it comes to making the drink at home, Huber admits there is a little technique, even as ingredients fluctuate from recipe to recipe.
“Take your time, use low heat. Do not boil,” Huber said. “Use an inexpensive, but not cheap, red wine, add plenty of apple juice, sugar, bay leaves and cloves.”
But don’t add orange juice or whipped cream. That’s a common mistake, Huber said.
Helga’s starts serving the drink the first week of October and through the chilly holiday months. The Denver Christkindl Market will take place on weekends from Nov. 17 through Dec. 23 at Skyline Park at 16th St. Mall and Arapahoe St.
From the Austrian board of tourism
2 bottles of good quality red wine
2 cups of water
juice of 2 lemons
5 oz sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 oranges – cut into bitesize pieces
oranges for decoration
How to make it:
Put all ingredients in a pot and bring it close to boil
For additional taste cut 2 oranges in to bite size pieces and add to the wine
Remove clove, cinnamon stick before serving it into lightly pre-warmed glasses
Decorate glasses with a slice of orange