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FOOD & DRINK

5 things you need to know about German Glühwein

It's that time of year again when the delicious German drink Glühwein will be on sale at Christmas Markets and in bars all over the country. Here's what you need to know about the traditional winter beverage.

A mulled wine cup stands on the table at a Christmas market in Offenbach.
A mulled wine cup stands on the table at a Christmas market in Offenbach. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Arnold

1. It existed before Christmas Markets

Nowadays, sipping a hot mug of Glühwein is mostly associated with a visit to a traditional German Christmas market, which might make you think that it was an invention of wine stand operators.

However, though German Christmas markets have been around for nearly 600 years, some form of mulled wine has been a popular winter beverage since Roman times.

READ ALSO: Where are Christmas markets around Germany already opening?

The Romans had their own special recipe for Glühwein which combined wine with honey and spices such as pepper, bay leaf, saffron and dates.

The oldest documented consumption of Glühwein in Germany can be traced back to Count John IV of Katzenelnbogen, a German nobleman who was the first grower of Riesling grapes in the 15th century. Archaeologists found a special silver plated cup dating from 1420 which he used to sip the sweet and spicy drink.

2. Don’t overstep the 80C mark

When making your own batch of Glühwein at home – you’ll want to make sure that your ingredients – wine (red or white), sugar, cinnamon, cloves, lemon, orange and star anise – are simmering away at a temperature of no more than 80C.

Aromatic spices give Glühwein its special flavour. Photo: picture alliance / dpa-tmn | DWI

Above 80C the alcohol evaporates, which is detrimental to the taste and causes the sugar to degrade. The ideal temperature for your Glühwein is between 72C and 73C and the perfect colour is a deep red. 

3. It literally means ‘Glow wine’

The Glüh part of the word for this drink – which sounds a bit like the English word “glue” – comes from the German verb glühen meaning “to glow”.

The origin of the word Glühwein goes back hundreds of years when hot irons were used to heat the wine. It might help you to remember the meaning of the word by looking at the glowing cheeks of your friends while drinking a cup of the hot alcoholic drink.

READ ALSO: What’s the history behind Germany’s beloved Christmas markets?

4. You can make it without alcohol (or with even more)

To make a non-alcoholic version of Glühwein – or Kinderpunsch (children’s punch) as it’s commonly referred to in German – you can replace the wine with a mixture of fruit tea, apple and orange juice. 

Children’s punch cups with the motif “Moppi” from the children’s TV show Sandmännchen at a stand of the Leipzig Christmas market. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Willnow

If you want to go the other way and make a Glühwein mit Schuss (mulled wine with a shot), you can add a dash of rum or amaretto to your cup full of Glühwein just before drinking. 

5. Glühwein makes you merry faster

Alcoholic hot drinks get you drunk faster, as their high temperature ensures that the alcohol enters the bloodstream more quickly and easily. Sugar also promotes alcohol absorption, so a cup of mulled wine will go to your head much more quickly than a glass of normal wine.

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FOOD & DRINK

10 classic sweet treats to try at least once in Germany

Kaffee und Kuchen - or coffee and cake - is a strong German tradition. So of course there is a huge selection of sweet treats across the country. Here's 10 that we think you should try.

10 classic sweet treats to try at least once in Germany

Bienenstich

Despite its slightly disturbing name, the “bee sting cake” is a much-loved favourite in Germany, and you’ll find it in almost every bakery. It’s absolutely delicious and is likely to become one of your top choices for a Kaffee und Kuchen Pause (coffee and cake break). Components of this classic are a sweet yeast dough, a filling of vanilla or cream, honey and a topping of flaked almonds that caramelises during baking.

It also has an interesting back story. According to legend, a feud between the towns of Andernach and Linz escalated into violence when the former was attacked by the latter. However, the residents of Andernach managed to fend the residents of Linz off by throwing beehives at the attackers, who promptly fled. To celebrate the event, the people of Andernach invented the cake and named it after the event which inspired it. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Spritzkuchen

A specialty of Eberswalde, in north-eastern Germany, the Spritzkuchen is a bit like a sugar-glazed donut, but with a slightly different texture. The trick is that the dough gets cooked while the ingredients are mixed before it’s fried. These treats are said to have originated in 1832 in the town of Eberswalde in Brandenburg near Berlin.

A server with Spritzkuchen and doughnuts during a food event in Berlin in 2018.

A server with Spritzkuchen (on the right) and doughnuts during a food event in Berlin in 2018. Photo: picture alliance / Wolfgang Kumm/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

READ ALSO: Kaffee und Kuchen – the history behind a very German tradition

Pflaumenkuchen

July through to October is plum season in Germany, so it’s the perfect time to get your hands on a slice of Pflaumenkuchen or “plum cake”. Bakeries are often lined with quartered plums called Zwetschgen nestled together on the delicious base. It’s also sometimes known as Zwetschgenkuchen

Pflaumenkuchen or plum cake being served.

Pflaumenkuchen or plum cake being served. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Florian Schuh

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte

It’s hard to compile a roundup of German deserts without mentioning the famous “black forest cake” or “gâteau” (pictured at the top of the article).

This delicious treat is considered one of the most popular German cakes and is known around the world. It typically consists of several layers of chocolate sponge with whipped cream and cherries. It also has whipped cream, maraschino cherries and chocolate shavings on top.

If a dessert is labelled as Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, then under German law it has to contain Kirschwasser, a brandy made from the distillation of morello cherries. 

READ ALSO: A guide to the best international supermarkets in Berlin

Frankfurter Kranz

Frankfurt’s speciality is the Frankfurter Kranz or “wreath”. This Bundt cake (baked in a Bundt pan) is typically layered with jam and buttercream and sprinkled with caramelised nuts. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Donauwelle

The Donauwelle or “Danube wave” likely gets its name from the wave-like pattern on this yummy sweet treat. This cake has layers of plain and chocolate pound cake combined and contains sour cherries. It’s usually topped with buttercream and chocolate glaze. The Donauwelle is baked on a sheet pan and then cut into rectangular pieces and served. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Käsekuchen

Germans love their cheesecake. The classic German Käsekuchen is made with Quark cheese, unlike the American type which uses cream cheese. The base is usually made of a shortcrust pastry, but there are quite different variants, such as bottomless cheesecake and variants with berries or other fruit.

 
 
 
 
 
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Prinzregententorte

If you’re in Bavaria, make sure to try out the Prinzregententorte, which is a torte consisting of at least six – and usually seven – thin layers of sponge cake interlaid with chocolate buttercream.

 
 
 
 
 
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Kalter Hund

The Kalter Hund – or “cold dog” is actually nothing to do with dogs. It’s a chocolate-style no-bake dessert that no doubt brings back sweet childhood memories back to many Germans. The Kalter Hund is generally made with a cocoa coconut fat cream and butter biscuits. The biscuits are layered in a loaf pan and spread with the cocoa cream.

Germany's Kalter Hund dessert being sliced up.

Germany’s Kalter Hund dessert being sliced up. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stephanie Pilick

Hefezopf 

The Hefezopf, which literally means “yeast wreath” or “yeast braid” is a sweet bread popular in German-speaking countries and often in different variations across Europe. It’s a staple at Easter brunch with the family. The sweet yeast dough is divided into three parts, rolled into long “sausages” and then braided into a plait. Last but not least, it is brushed with a little milk and sprinkled with sugar before going into the oven. 

 
 
 
 
 
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