Hot Spiced Gluhwein for the Holidays

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without the familiar spices that flavor our favorite cookies, breads, nuts and so much more. Here’s where these traditional spices originated and how to put them to use in a recipe for hot spiced wine.

Christmas Spices

While you were mixing the ingredients for that batch of gingerbread cookies, did you wonder how the ginger and cinnamon found their way to your kitchen? And I don’t mean by way of the supermarket.

It’s easy for us to take for granted the many baking spices we rely on for our holiday sweets and other recipes. But each took a long road to reach us.

The crusaders returned home from their travels in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and brought with them the spices we still use today. Our holiday baking wouldn’t be the same without the nutmeg, allspice or cloves they brought home.

Here are some of the most common Christmas spices used in holiday treats and where they originated:

Ginger…Southeast Asia
Star anise…China
Cinnamon sticks…Ceylon
Clove and nutmeg…Indonesia
Chili pepper….Central and South America

One of my favorite drinks to enjoy as part of the holiday season is a German hot spiced wine called Gluhwein (Glow Wine). This wine features many old-world spices and is served as part of Christmas celebrations here and abroad.

Holiday Spiced Wine


  • 1 bottle (750 ml) red wine
  • ½ cup water or black tea
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole cloves
  • Zest of half a lemon or lemon slices


  1. Mix together sugar, cinnamon, cloves, lemon and water in a large pan and bring to boil.
  2. Reduce to a simmer and steep mixture 30 minutes or more.
  3. Add the wine; reheat until the mixture is steaming (not boiling).
  4. Strain the wine into mugs and serve hot.


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