Traditional German Mulled Wine Recipe – Oma's Glühwein

Oma Gerhild

by: Gerhild Fulson  /  Cookbook Author, Blogger, German Oma!

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You may think that making this German mulled wine recipe is such a traditional "German" thing! I know that's what I thought.

After all, Glühwein is German. It's also what's so popular at all the Christmas markets throughout Germany. Why, there are even special little cups used just for this, that many people collect.

Make this easy German Mulled Wine recipe to enjoy as a traditional German Christmas drink. It'll make you think you're back in Germany at the wonderful Christmas markets.

Yes, Glühwein is German and translates as "glow wine"! (Perhaps because we 'glow' after several servings?) Its history, however, goes all the way back to the Roman Empire in the 2nd century BC.

Following their conquests in Europe, they brought the intoxicating aromas of warming wine with spices with them, and this pleasing drink is known throughout Europe, not just Germany. It's the perfect drink for holiday gatherings on cold winter nights during the holiday season.

Not only is it a perfect drink for the festive season, it's also used in baking. An easy and quick recipe for a Glühweinkuchen vom Blech (Mulled Wine Sheet Cake) to make these cookie bars. 

It's a great way to use up any leftover glühwein (unlikely, I know). More likely, it'll be something you make extra glühwein for, just because these cookie bars are a perfect addition to that special dessert platter you make for Christmas time.

Different names, different drinks?

Whether one calls it mulled wine (Britain), glögg (nordic countries), vin chaud (France), greyano vino (Bulgaria), kuhano vino/kuvano vino (Croatia and Slovenia), svařené víno (Czech Republic), vinho quente (Brazil), candola and vino navega'o (Chile), etc., etc., it's the perfect aromatic drink for the Christmas season.

Basically, they are very similar. A wine (or beer, in some cases) that is warmed, spiced and sweetened. Something to drive away the chills. 

If you're like me, you'll probably think that the way it's served in Germany is best. 

In Germany, the truly authentic Glühwein is prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with just a mix of cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, lemon, and sugar. Yes, just a basic mulled wine. However, over the years, there are so many additions that have been added. As you travel from one German Christmas market to the next, you'll notice that there are variations in taste due to the different spices, citrus and wines used.

Serving Glühwein at the Koblenz Christmas MarketServing Glühwein at the Koblenz Christmas Market

What's in Glühwein?


  • Red wine is traditionally used for the base (see below for best ones to use)
  • Fruit wines, such as cherry, are an option
  • White wine can be used, but it isn't that popular


  • The list of spices added includes cinnamon sticks and whole cloves, that are required
  • Including any of the following various spices, such as whole star anise, vanilla beans, cardamom pods, juniper berries, or whole allspice makes a delicious drink
  • Always use whole spices and never ground ones, which will make the final drink cloudy


  • The citrus additions are usually lemon slices
  • Orange slices or even orange peel adds a nice touch
  • Some add orange zest or lemon zest


  • White cane sugar 
  • Demerara sugar
  • Brown sugar 
  • Vanilla sugar
  • Honey

Non-alcoholic Version

For children, a non-alcoholic version, Kinderpunsch, is made often using fruit juices, such as grape or orange juice. Apple juice and cider are also delicious.

However, I recall my Mutti letting hers simmer gently for about a half hour to “burn” off the alcohol so that we, as children, could enjoy it with a lower alcohol content.

If one wants a stronger drink, having it with a shot of rum, brandy, or other liquor is known as Glühwein mit Schuss.

What's the best wine to use for German Glühwein?

Well, almost any, and it doesn't need to be an expensive wine!

A light red wine works well. There are differing opinions on using a dry wine versus a sweet wine. The following wines work well:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Zinfandel
  • Rioja
  • Grenache

Some say that one shouldn't use one with an alcohol content no higher than 12.5%.

If you'd like a less alcoholic or lighter mulled wine, then replace some wine with apple juice, apple cider, or orange juice. 

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Several ways to make Glühwein

  • My Mutti would have made it in the traditional way of bringing hot water, sugar, and spices to a boil over high heat and then letting it steep for about 30 minutes. The wine was then added, and the mixture brought ALMOST to simmer, but NEVER a boil. Lemon juice was then added to taste.
  • Others make a tea with black tea, adding the spices and lemon peel to that. It steeps for about 20 minutes. The wine is then brought to almost a simmer and mixed with the sieved tea mixture. Lemon juice and sugar are to taste.
  • For me, the easiest gluhwein recipe is to put bring the wine and water to almost a boil over low heat. Pour it, along with the sugar, spices, and citrus, into a slow cooker, set to low, and let it steep for several hours. Stir once or twice to make sure the sugar has dissolved. This is perfect to make when company is coming in the evening. You can get glühwein ready earlier in the day and enjoy the spiciness wafting through the house as you get ready for your party.

Bundling the spices in cheesecloth will make removing them easier. You can also strain the glühwein through a sieve.

Serve it hot in warmed mugs or heatproof glasses, the smaller the cup, the better. That way, it's easier to keep hot and have hot refills.

Garnish each cup with a lemon or orange slice, a cinnamon stick, or star anise.

Ready to make German Mulled Wine?

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Traditional German Mulled Wine Recipe – Oma's Glühwein

Make this easy German Mulled Wine recipe to enjoy as a traditional German Christmas drink. It'll make you think you're back in Germany at the wonderful Christmas markets.

Prep Time

10 minutes

Cook Time

60 minutes

Total Time

70 minutes


Makes 6 5-oz servings


  • 1 bottle (25 fl oz or 750 ml) red wine (see above)
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 8 – 10 whole cloves
  • 2 cardamom pods (optional)
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 orange, sliced (optional)
  • 3 cinnamon sticks


  1. Put into everything into a large saucepan and bring almost to a simmer over low heat, stirring to make sure that the sugar is dissolved. DO NOT BOIL.
  2. Lower heat to very low. Cover and let it steep for at least 1 hour. DO NOT SIMMER OR BOIL.
  3. Strain out the spices and serve.

Using a Slow Cooker:

  1. Heat the wine, water, and sugar in a saucepan until almost to a simmer. Stir to dissolve sugar. 
  2. Pour into a slow cooker and add the remaining ingredients. Set slow cooker to low. 
  3. The glühwein is ready after one hour, but will keep hot until needed if kept on low. It will improve in flavor the longer it steeps.


  • Serve hot in pre-warmed cups and garnish with lemon or orange slices and cinnamon sticks
  • Add other spices as desired, such as whole star anise, vanilla beans, juniper berries
  • Add less or more sugar, depending upon the sweetness of your wine
  • Replace some of the wine with apple or orange juice if you want a lower alcohol content
  • Serve with a shot of rum or brandy if you want a 'stronger' drink

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Make this easy German Mulled Wine recipe to enjoy as a traditional German Christmas drink. It'll make you think you're back in Germany at the wonderful Christmas markets.

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