CONTRIBUTED BY MEGAN OGEAL
My junior year of college was unlike most. The year was spent abroad, studying in Hannover.
Ok. So, not much studying was accomplished. I was there for Uni, but mostly…life was my teacher. I did pass all my classes though. I swear. Cross my heart! (Lucky for me I was there to study the language.)
I have many, many fond memories of that year. I also have some I vaguely remember, and a few I wish I didn’t. Funny how that works sometimes.
One of those memories, is spending time at the Christmas market, drinking Feuerzangenbowle and eating Spekulatius cookies; all shared with good friends. It was a time of friendship and new experiences shared over glasses of warm, spiced, entoxicating deliciousness.
When I think about this time, I experience an overwhelming sense of calm, happiness, and goodwill. To put it in one word…Christmas. I experienced Christmas. I often think about and miss this time in my life.
Feuerzangenbowle is a traditional, very German, alcoholic beverage. It is basically mulled wine, or Glühwein, over which a rum soaked sugar cone/hat is set on fire and allowed to carmelize and drip into the wine mixture.
If you haven’t yet tasted it, you don’t know what you’re missing. Be ready for your mind to be blown…it is out-of-this-world fantastic!
Feuerzangenbowle literally translates to fire-tongs punch. It is often included as part of Christmas and/or New Year’s Eve (Sylvester) traditions.
In 1944, a comedy film by the same name boosted the popularity of the beverage. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find the DVD in Region 1. If you have a region-free dvd player…well then, aren’t you lucky! (Note: Different DVDs and players are made for different regions oft he world. Most will not work with other regions. Be careful when buying a DVD or player in other countries.)
All the ingredients are pretty easily found at any grocery store. The traditional Feuerzangenbowle set may cost anywhere from about 30-100€. I believe you can find them at a kitchen store (Gangolf) or department store (Karstadt, Kaufhof or Bungert). I have even found the set for sale at grocery stores before!
You will need two unique things to make Feuerzagenbowle: the feuerzagen (rack to hold the burning sugar) and the Zuckerhut (sugar hat or cone). You can buy a feuerzagen or make a reasonably MacGyver’d-up substitute. I’ve seen people use a slotted spoon or wire rack for the feuerzangen. We just need something that will let the sugar drip into the wine. The Zuckerhut can also be purchased. Alternately, we can use a whole pile of sugarcubes, about 250 grams’ worth to be precise. I haven’t used the sugar cubes and although I’m sure they work just fine, the zuckerhut is just so easy to work with.
Feuerzangenbowle Cooking Notes
First, we’ll need to steep the spices (cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and optionally cardamom) and the citrus (oranges and lemons, both the juice and slices), with the wine. We want to choose a half dry red wine. Nothing too bitter. Now, in order to steep them we can either mix everything together and leave it in the fridge overnight, or we can just heat the mixture until the wine is steaming (do NOT boil! Boiling is bad!! We want to keep all the good, yummy alcohol.), and let it steep for 15 minutes or so.
Once the wine mixture is ready, it’s time to prepare the sugar and rum. To soak my zuckerhut, I like to put it in a small container and pour the run 151 over it until it doesn’t absorb anymore. Then let it soak for several minutes. I find more of the rum will soak in and the sugar will burn longer with out added maintenance. If you’re using sugar cubes you can still use this approach, just make sure you don’t soak the sugar so long that it dissolves.
Heat the wine mixture in a metal pot until it’s steaming. Place a bowl or pot with a warmer underneath. (Make sure whatever you use is fire-hardened. We don’t want your bowl exploding!) If you’re using a bowl, go ahead and pour in your mixture…otherwise just move your pot over to the warmer.
Position your feuerzangen above the pot or bowl of wine, place the rum-soaked sugar in the feuerzangen, stand back, and light it. The sugar will make a gorgeous blue flame as it burns. (Just imagine how it would look with the lights off! Or don’t imagine and actually turn them off.) As the caramelizing sugar drips into the wine it makes a fantastic sizzling.
Now, as the sugar burns down, two things can eventually happen: the flame goes out, or the sugar can start to burn and blacken. Neither of which we want. So, to prevent this, we will need to periodically douse the sugar with more rum.
PLEASE do not add the rum from the bottle. We do not need unexpected Christmas light shows or any IEDs let loose in our homes! (Try explaining that one at work…) You don’t want to be the reason for a safety briefing. Or the source of inspiration for those extremely entertaining AFN commercials.
Instead, pour a small amount, maybe 2-3 tablespoons, into a metal ladle or large spoon. Then carefully but quickly and steadily pour it over the sugar. Brace yourself for the flame, but don’t chicken out! — just pour it right over the sugar, pull the spoon back slowly, and blow out the now flaming spoon (homemade sparklers? Just don’t hand it to your child). Easy!
If it’s your first time making it (and depending on how adept you are with handling fire) having someone else standing by with a fire extinguisher might not be a bad idea. It’s also a good idea to make sure you don’t have a lot of loose clothing on, or loose hair around your face.
Once the sugar is all melted, the feuerzangenbowle is ready to serve. I like to use regular old coffee mugs, since the drink will be piping hot.
I’ve read that the feuerzangenbowle will keep for several days in the fridge, if for some unknown reason you find you’re unable to finish off 3 liters of alcohol in a single evening.
2 cinnamon sticks
2-3 cardamom pods, optional
3 oranges (2 for juice and 1 for slicing)
3 lemons (2 for juice and 1 for slicing)
3 Liters dry red wine
2-3 cups Bacardi 151
1 zuckerhut, or 250g sugar cubes
feuerzangen (real or makeshift)
large metal pan
long-handled metal spoon or ladle
fire-harden bowl (if using)
• Heat wine with cloves, cinnamon, and juices. DON’T BOIL!!!
• Then place bowl or pot with a warmer underneath. You may want to strain before pouring, up to you.
• Lay Zuckerhut on top of the bowl or pot with special holder or “tongs.” Pour some rum over it.
• Light it, and turn out the lights for a private FEUERZANGENBOWLE show!
• Use the rest of the rum to keep the Zuckerhut burning until melted completely.
• Serve hot in glass mugs or tea cups.
• Note: Make sure you use a spoon to pour the rum or you’ll set your house on fire. (Bad.)
If you don’t want to buy the individual spices, you can buy Glühfix. Glühfix is Glühwein spices in teabags. It can be found either with the Christmas stuff or the tea stuff at the Grocery store. You’d use one bag for every bottle of wine.
Here’s a video from Germandeli.com. It’s very helpful and you can see the proper equipment.
Note: This article was first published on Germany Ja in 2012, but we brought it back now for you to try this year!