How to Brew the Ultimate German Glühwein with Cinnamon and Star Anise?

As the frosty grip of winter tightens, many of us seek solace in the inviting warmth of our homes. What better way to amplify the cosiness than by brewing a pot of the ultimate German Glühwein? With its rich red wine base, harmonious blend of spices, and enticing aroma, Glühwein is a traditional German drink that has been warming souls for centuries. In this guide, we will provide an authentic German Glühwein recipe, revealing how to perfectly balance the heady spices, fresh oranges, and sweet sugar to create your cozy winter drink.

The Origins of Glühwein

Before we delve into the process of making Glühwein, let’s take a moment to understand its rich history. Glühwein, which translates to ‘glow-wine’, is known as mulled wine in English-speaking countries.

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Originating in the Roman Empire, where wine was heated with spices to combat the cold winters, the recipe has evolved over the centuries. It was in German-speaking countries that the drink took on the name Glühwein. Often associated with the festive period, it has become a staple at Christmas markets across Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Selecting the Wine

The first step to making the perfect Glühwein is selecting your wine. While the choice of wine can vary according to personal preferences, the most common type used is a robust, full-bodied red. This forms the hearty foundation of the drink, which balances well with the blend of spices and sweetness that will be added.

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Avoid choosing a wine that’s overly sweet or high in tannins, as these characteristics can overwhelm the added flavours. A mid-range Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Zinfandel are often good choices for Glühwein.

Assembling the Spices

The spice blend is where the magic truly happens. The right mix can transform your red wine into a symphony of flavours. The most traditional spices used in Glühwein are cinnamon and cloves. These spices are known for their warm, comforting flavours, making them a perfect choice for this winter drink.

However, the real secret of the ultimate Glühwein lies in the addition of star anise. This slightly sweet, somewhat spicy ingredient imparts a unique flavour that makes your Glühwein stand out. The combination of cinnamon, cloves, and star anise creates a beautifully harmonious blend of flavours that’s comforting and rich.

The Art of the Brew

Now that you’ve selected your wine and assembled your spices, it’s time to move on to the brewing process. Here, you’ll also add the juice of an orange, which contributes a fresh, citrusy note to the drink.

Begin by pouring your wine into a large pot and warming it over low heat. It’s crucial not to let the wine boil, as boiling will evaporate the alcohol. Next, add your spices, orange juice, and sugar. The amount of sugar can be adjusted depending on your personal preference, but remember, Glühwein should have a balance of sweetness that doesn’t overpower the other flavours.

Allow the mixture to simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes. This will give the spices ample time to infuse into the wine. The longer you let the Glühwein heat, the more pronounced the flavours become. However, be careful not to heat it for too long, as overcooking might lead to bitterness.

Serving the Glühwein

After the brewing process, you’re ready to serve your Glühwein. It’s best enjoyed warm. To serve, strain the mulled wine into mugs, discarding the spices. Some people like to add a slice of orange or a cinnamon stick to each cup for added flavour and presentation.

Gluhwein can be enjoyed on its own or paired with traditional German treats like Lebkuchen (gingerbread) or Stollen (fruit bread).

Enjoy the process of brewing Glühwein, and may this delicious, spiced German drink warm your winter evenings. Remember, the secret to the ultimate Glühwein lies in the balance of your red wine, the symphony of spices, and the gentle heat that brings it all together.

Adding the Final Touches

In this section, we will talk about the last steps of our German Glühwein recipe. We have selected our wine, assembled our spices, and carefully brewed our concoction. Now, it’s time to add the final touches to enhance the taste and presentation of our Glühwein.

While your mulled wine has been brewing, the heat has allowed the spices to infuse their flavors into the wine. However, there’s more to Glühwein than just the spices. Adding orange slices towards the end of the brewing process introduces a subtle fruitiness that complements the spices beautifully while also adding a picturesque element to your beverage.

Once the brewing time is over, reduce heat and gently stir in your orange slices. Allow them to steep for about 5 minutes. Remember not to overdo it, as prolonged heating at this stage could cause the orange slices to break down and create a bitter aftertaste.

Towards the end, an additional dollop of honey or a bit more sugar can be added to your wine Glühwein for an extra hint of sweetness. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that Glühwein is not traditionally an overly sweet drink. The spices, wine, and orange juice should hold their own, and sweetness should only be a complementing note.


The traditional German Glühwein, with its aromatic mix of red wine, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves, offers a luxurious treat perfect for any winter night. The process of brewing this spiced wine is as enchanting as the drink itself, transforming simple red wine into a satisfying winter classic.

In conclusion, the best Glühwein recipe is one that suits your palate. While we’ve outlined the traditional approach to brewing this German mulled wine, don’t be afraid to experiment a little. Add a bit more star anise for a stronger licorice hint or throw in a few more orange slices for a citrusy burst.

Remember, the key to a successful Glühwein lies in its balance. The wine and spices should complement each other, not overpower. And most importantly, Glühwein should be enjoyed slowly, sipped from a warm mug, preferably in the company of loved ones on a chilly evening. Enjoy your Glühwein journey and Prost! (That’s ‘cheers’ in German!)

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