It’s easy to underestimate how much “punch” is delivered in a single Glühwein drink at a Christmas market. If I’m not careful and drink Glühwein too quickly and without food to soften the blow, I’ll encounter the very repeatable experience of “mind-body separation”.
What is this magically mysterious Christmas concoction called “Glühwein”?
Glowing wine? Drink more for positive glow!
Traditional Glühwein (“mulled wine”) is a hot drink made with red wine, sugar, sometimes citrus, and spices including cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom. Other types are made with white wine or fruit wine. Versions at the Vancouver Christmas Market include regular with red wine, white wine, cherry, and apple Glühwein. In Germany, there are versions of Glühwein with other kinds of fruit wine. Feuerzangenbowle is another drink similar to Glühwein, with added flaming rum poured over a sugarloaf and whose drippings are mixed with the wine.
In the German city state of Berlin, the consumer protection division stated in a 2009 press release:
Das Erzeugnis Glühwein ist definiert als aromatisiertes Getränk, welches ausschliesslich aus Rotwein oder Weißwein hergestellt und hauptsächlich mit Zimt und/oder Gewürznelken gewürzt wird. Der Mindestalkoholgehalt des Getränkes beträgt 7 % (Vol.).
which roughly translates as: “As a product, Glühwein is defined as a flavoured drink made solely from either red or white wine and spiced mostly with cinnamon and/or cloves. The minimum alcohol content for the beverage is 7% by volume.”
• Glühwein (Rot, Weiss, Rosé) : regular, white, and rose mulled-wine
• Glühwein mit Schuss : mulled wine with a shot of liquor
• Feuerzangenbowle : Glühwein with sugary rum syrup
• Eierpunsch : egg punch, or egg nog
• Kinderpunsch : non-alcoholic punch; literally, “children’s punch”
• Apfelwein : apple wine
• Brombelbeerwein : blackberry wine
• Heidelbeerwein : blueberry wine
• Himbeerwein : raspberry wine
• Kirschwein : cherry wine
• Maracujawein : passion fruit wine
• Pflaumenwein : plum wine
Punch with some punch : method to the madness
While the alcohol content in Glühwein is more often between 8 to 13 percent by volume, common wisdom would mean the hot alcoholic drink makes you drunk much faster than beer or wine, with the high sugar content boosting alcohol absorption through the stomach- and intestinal-lining and hastening the amount of alcohol into the blood system.
I wrote previously about the rhyme-and-routine I carry out every time I’m at a Christmas market. Generally, it’s not different from a typical night of drinking; in the safe company of friends and smart choices to mixing food with drink, visitors do not have to get completely hammered. Besides, in Germany, it’s not generally acceptable to leave a Christmas Market blind drunk.
For the longest time, I’ve had a 2-drink minimum, “coincidentally” matching my self-imposed 2-drink maximum. I’ve not often been tempted to 3. But all that changed in a recent three-hour visit to the Vancouver Christmas Market.
In our merry group of three, we each consumed two Glühwein and one Feuerzangenbowle. To help absorb the initial hit of alcohol, two in the group shared a wood-stove baked flat dough (“flame cake”) with sour cream, onions, and bacon (Flammkuchen mit Crème Fraîche und Speck), while I dug into a hefty portion of Spätzle loaded with cheese, bacon, and grilled onions (Käsespätzle mit Speck und Zwiebeln). By evening’s end, just as our heads were about to lift off, we each had a grilled Bratwurst covered with Sauerkraut and onions, and topped with ketchup and mustard. We delivered a successful evening on a variation of the “tried-and-true” method of mixing strong drink with strong food.
Along with the enthusiastic but sensible consumption of food and drink and in passably sober conversations in German with a number of Europeans working at the market, the German-style Christmas Market here in my own hometown is doing a great job of reminding me what it’s like back “home” in Germany in the month of December.
Henry Lee (@fotoeins) November 30, 2013
I made the first and third photos, respectively, on 22 and 29 November 2013 at the Vancouver Christmas Market. I made the second photo (mug with Glühwein) on 6 December 2012 in Berlin, Germany. This post appears at Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com