Warm up with Glühwein

Or vin chaud.

Or, as we know it, mulled wine.

It was a treat to walk the streets of Zurich clutching a steaming glass of glühwein. It was a cold, damp and gray day but it was also the only day we had in Zurich. We took a combination of trams and buses to get to Banhofstrasse, Zurich's Michigan Avenue. None of us wanted to step out into the miserable weather but we managed to walk along the frozen promenade of Lake Zurich, and duck quickly into a side-street across the river where a street truck was selling hot dogs and warm wine. The hot dog was huge. The bun around it, even bigger. Dipped in the wine, it was bliss!

I think I first had mulled wine at a friend's Christmas party five years ago. Boulder has been charming that way. We've made it every winter but I've always suffered the following several days because wines are a sure trigger for my migraines. Enter sulfite-free / sulphite-free organic wines. They have tannins but those don't bother me as much so I was home free!

Until now though, I have had nothing to compare my variation of mulled wine to, except for what I had had at my friend's. I'm happy to say I've perfected a recipe that works for me each time and is very close to what I had on those cold streets of Zurich. Sweet but not cloyingly so. Spicy but not overly so. Just right and gluggable by the mugful. I am not much of a drinker but I can easily consume three-quarters of a bottle of wine, when mulled. Pfft, I hear you say, most of the alcohol has evaporated by the time it is ready! Not so. It contains at least 60% or so of its original alcohol content but wait till you read how to make it more potent! It's something I never fail to do, now that I am in the know!


  • 1 bottle fruity red wine
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 2 cardamom pods, slightly bruised
  • 2 cinammon sticks, broken
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1 orange, medium-size

  1. Slice the orange along its cross-section.
  2. Put all ingredients, except the wine, into a large non-reactive pan and warm over medium heat, until all the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Turn down the heat and add the wine. It tastes really great even at this point but resist the urge as the warm wine is much better!
  4. Heat the mixture on low for at least an hour, making sure it does not ever boil. 
  5. Stir from time to time. 
  6. To serve, first add a shot of cognac to your wine glass and pour hot glühwein over it, straining out the oranges and spices. If you're lucky and have some kirsch at home, you could add that instead of cognac. 


  • You can use any red fruity wine, not necessarily organic or sulfite-free. It doesn't make sense to spend too much on it as you're going to be adjusting its flavor anyway.
  • I chose Sulfite-free organic Zinfandel because Zinfandel was recommended, and that's what my local liquor store had in stock. I generally do not drink wine that is not organic or sulfite-free.
  • You can make it sweeter if you like. Or use any other sweetener: brown sugar, molasses, honey or even agave nectar. I prefer sugar.
  • If your cloves are old or not very fragrant, use a couple more.
  • I have made mulled wine in my slow cooker with the heat setting at Low and then Warm to keep it warm. 
  • I discard the spices but love to nibble on the oranges.
Now, go put some glühwein on the stove so that you can enjoy it with my pictures of Zurich, shot entirely with my P&S. I wish I had better pictures of this beautiful city but this was the best I could do. And sometimes, that's just fine.

I have been saying this a lot but I could live in Europe! The only thing I would miss is owning my own home, even if it's a small apartment. Everything is smaller and the people are, in general, much leaner. The transport system blew me away. Get this: to get to the Zurich airport from my nephew's apartment, we walked about 5 minutes to a bus stop, took the bus to a tram station, transferred to a tram that took us to the airport. We had 3 large suitcases, 4 carry-ons and 3 backpacks. My nephew helped us get into the tram but after that we were on our own with all that luggage. I was completely stressed, of course, but it was unbelievable how we managed this at the beginning of peak hour without a hitch. Oh yes, I could totally live in Europe. That I can drink warm wine as I walk the streets is just the cherry on top!


RetroKali said...

I lived in Germany about ten years ago, and I STILL buy bottles of Gluhwein at C-mastime. There is nothing like it.
and if you make your own and want to go the easy route, they make something called "gluhfix", that is a ready made spice packet.

Miri said...

Wow - that looks like a lovely glass of mulled wine. I had mulled wine in January 2008 at a lovely outdoor restaurant in Lodhi Gardens and it was lovely - we kept drinking it like it was juice!

Priya said...

I love mulled wine too. I made the stupid mistake of trying it at home with a bottle of wine that we did not like. it was a gift and sitting on the counter for a loooong time. A total waste of spices.

We went through almost a case of a Swedish mulled wine that Ikea carried around Christmas. Totally loved it.

Pelicano said...

A very sexy post! I like the fortification idea with cognac- thrilling to sip with a side of snowflakes!

Anita said...

Ummm...do you think it is too warm for mulled wine here now? Evenings are still nippy, so this might be just what the doctors orders this Sunday evening! And this year, we finally have good oranges in the market!

Fabulous pics, despite the P&S. Like they say, it is not just the camera but the eye behind it that counts!

john k.Tas. said...

lovely sequence of photos, Manisha. the cold , and the character of the city came through clearly. you also solved the problem of where our missing seagull was!