Glühwein originated in Germany as a story of survival and reprisal from a hard life, a life we can’t imagine. In truth, the hot mulled spiced beverage existed centuries before making its way to Germany. But, since traditional Gluhwein is synonymous with Germany that’s the history we’ll explore.

The history of glühwein is fascinating. Glühwein first noted appearance in Germany wasn’t until the early 1400’s, long after the pillage and death of Julius Caesar. Still, I have to imagine it existed before documentation. Either way, during the 14th and 15th century, the demographic profile still varied from many other European countries. 

Created on nights when the heat of day escaped into the open, cloudless sky and cold set in with a harshness that numbed fingers, toes, and faces, I imagine they heated wine over fires and seasoned it for taste.

Glühwein first noted appearance wasn’t until the early 1400’s. But, I have to imagine it existed before documentation, and the first recorded mention of gluhwein anywhere in the world was from centuries before that point.

During the 14th and 15th center in Germany, it’s estimated a little over 10% of the population lived in cities or towns at that time, with the majority still living and working farms. Germany’s economy was agricultural in nature, as opposed to trade and industry. The Germanic people was spread out across large swaths of farmland throughout the country. 

Their foray into heating and drinking hot, spiced wine more than likely came about out of necessity to stay warm against the bitter cold winters versus as a social exercise. The cold and poverty of many who farmed and now found themselves restricted in movement and bound as serfs by the nobles of the time to land they originally owned would drive anyone to drink. 

Today Glühwein, or mulled spiced wine is a memory and has moved far beyond the history of glühwein. The heated, spiced wine is synonymous with the Christmas season, a time of love, friends, happiness, and joy. A good cup of christkindl (Christmas) gluhwein transports you into that world. Gluhwein ascended in popularity through Christkindlmarkt, Christmas Markets, in Germany, places filled with holiday cheer and goodness. 

German Christmas Markets

Not much is known about the first Christkindlmarkts, or Christmas markets. We do know that they served as a place for farmers to sell their goods, and for people to come together and celebrate the holiday season. Over time, these markets became more and more popular, eventually becoming the staple of German Christmas culture that we know today.

With its rich history and unique traditions, it’s no wonder that the Christkindlmarkt has become a global phenomenon. Cities big and small in Germany take their town squares hostages for several weeks leading up to and through the holiday season in this seasonal farmers market.

Just like cities large and small in the United States have farmer’s markets, so, too, do Christmas Markets pop up throughout the entire country of Germany and Europe. At any of these markets you can find a local, with a recipe probably passed down for generations, stirring a pot blackened by open flames, and filled with gluhwein.

At these markets, you can purchase everything from handmade decorations to fresh foods and gluhwein. Some of the more popular Christkindlmarkts are in the bigger cities of Germany, including Nuremberg, Munich, Heidelberg, Dresden, Berlin, Frankfurt, and more.

So if you find yourself in Germany during the holidays, be sure to check one out! And if not, don’t worry – you can always find a Christmas market near you. Just keep an eye out for the telltale signs: twinkling lights, the smell of fresh gingerbread, and the sound of holiday cheer.

Glühwein Recipes

Glühwein is traditionally made with cinnamon sticks, cloves, citrus peel, cardamom pods and sugar. The addition of these warming spices makes gluhwein the perfect drink for chilly winter evenings. Below are several variations on Gluhwein.

Check out a traditional glühwein recipe.

Or a fruit wine glühwein recipe.

Perhaps you should take Boozn Sam’s Glow Glühwein for a spin.