German Glühwein Recipe and a Glimpse of Austria

Gluhwein, or its virgin cousin wassail, is a warm and citrusy holiday drink hailing from German-speaking countries.

A mulled wine, glühwein—spelled out gluvine for Americans—is a warm treat in Germany and Austria, commonly guzzled on the slopes post-skiing. Whereas Americans typically grab beers at the ski lodge, Europeans sit back with some body-warming glühwein in the Alps.

family alps skiing
Family skiing in the Austrian Alps (plus brother-in-law’s sister)!

My family first discovered this treat on our vacation in Austria one Christmas. (This trip was also my downhill skiing debut where I fell off the T-bar and followed that up with a humorous attempt to right myself… But the Alps aren’t a bad place for the first-timer experience!)

skiing alps wipeout
This is typical of my skiing skills.

The cold doesn’t keep Austrians from enjoying the beauty of their country, and, in fact, they make the most of the natural landscape and culture come snow or sun. I discovered this on my return to Austria two summers ago when my sister married an Austrian in a small, meaningful, picturesque wedding.

sisters in alpach
The sisters reunited in Alpach, Austria in the summer of 2014 for the older sister’s (middle) wedding to our Austrian brother-in-law.

This winter, the sisters continued with a new family Christmas tradition, reuniting in the cold weather (Salt Lake City last year, Seattle this year). We carried on some Austrian traditions inspired by our entertaining Austrian brother-in-law, making glühwein and spätzle. (Look for a spätzle recipe coming soon!)

sister wolfgangsee
The three sisters along Wolfgangsee Lake during the Austrian winter, circa 2007-08.

(Unabashed Disclaimer: Admittedly, I’ve never had this German drink because I don’t consume alcohol, but I have had its virgin counterpart, wassail, made with apple cider instead of wine. And the wassail, I indulge in cupfuls. I will attest to the delicious smell that wafts through the kitchen when we make glühwein, so it must be good. Drink responsibly, friends.)


1 bottle red wine,* 1 orange, 3/4 c sugar, 3/4 c water, 1 cinnamon stick, 10 cloves

Serves: 2-4ish?


  1. Boil the water, sugar and cinnamon in a saucepan then reduce heat to a simmer.
  2. Cut the orange in half and squeeze juice into water. Now poke the cloves into the orange peel and place the halves into the saucepan with the liquid. (This keeps the cloves from disintegrating and you having to drain the liquid with a cheesecloth. Hurray for efficiency!)
  3. Simmer for about 30 minutes until the liquid is thick and syrup-like.
  4. Pour in the bottle of wine* and heat on low until just before simmer.
  5. Remove the orange halves.
  6. Pour, drink, enjoy!**

*Replace with apple cider if making non-alcoholic wassail. (“Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green!” Yes, those are the original words. The more you know…)

**Serve in mugs. Cold glass will break! This ain’t your regular wine-tasting rodeo.


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