Destination: Germany via NYC
Mode of Transport: Glühwein (mulled wine)
Clarence the Angel and George Bailey, go into a bar on a cold Christmas Eve, and Clarence orders a “Flaming Rum Punch”, an order that annoys the taciturn barkeep and owner, Nick; as his establishment is for “men who drink hard and want to get drunk fast”. The angel quickly changes his order to a “mulled wine”, another order that strains the bartender. It’s a Wonderful Life is not only a Christmas Classic, but one of my favorite films, period. I was introduced to this film by my college girlfriend, May; and for that I am forever thankful. Viewing this film has been a large part of my individual Christmas Traditions and now also my family’s. We named our daughter Bailey because of this film.
The excerpt from the film which I mentioned earlier was the impetus to another Christmas Tradition – “Mulled Wine”. Since having heard Clarence ordering the drink many years ago, I have had many renditions of this cocktail in many establishments and homes. My close friend, Kevin; who comes down to the City from Connecticut to visit my family every year for the Holidays, brings a Christmas Tree and about 6 bottles of wine. These bottles are used strictly for mulled wine.
We have tried to perfect the recipe throughout the years and below is the latest:
Red Wine (a good one with some boldness, try a Malbec from Argentina). Pour the bottle into a pot, and with it, add fresh ginger (just cut a piece about the size of your thumb, and be sure to give it a smash to release the essence); the peel of a medium size orange, one cinnamon stick, some nutmeg, a teaspoon of brown sugar, and about a dozen cloves. Bring to a simmer, not a boil (you don’t want the alcohol to evaporate) and serve. Repeat as needed.
By now, you probably figured out that Brenda, Bailey and I are big fans of the Season. One travel dream we have is going to a Christmas Market in Germany, which we hope to do one day soon. Until then, we try to replicate the experience as best we can from what we know. We’ve been told that during the winter in Germany and Austria, there are vendors that dole out what they call “Gluhwein” (mulled wine) from carts that are akin to New York City Hot Dog carts. When I hear this, I imagine myself imbibing in the streets of Nuremberg on a cold mid-December day, while shopping for ornaments or a really good lederhosen. Try to imagine a 47 year old Filipino man in that get-up. You’ll definitely need a drink after that.
So in the past few years, Brenda and I have brought Bailey to a Christmas Market they have had set up on the West Side of Central Park South. Not quite the famous Nurnberger Christkindlesmarkt, but it does the trick. A tradition we have when we go to the market is to visit the German Food Stand and order up a Bratwurst and a cup of Gluhwein (non-alcohol version). This is by far the most festive food stand in the whole market. Along with manufacturing cars, and preserving a strong economy; the Germans do Christmas well. Aromas of sauerkraut, grilled sausages, mulled punch waft through the air. It’s just fantastic on a cold night.
Back in our neighborhood downtown, the venerable German beer manufacturer, Paulaner, opened a microbrewery and restaurant, serving up traditional Bavarian offerings such as wienerschnitzel and bratwurst along with their home brews. This year they are also serving up some Gluhwein!
Last week, after walking around shopping in the cold all day; Brenda and I ducked into the place and enjoyed ourselves a cup of Gluhwein to help knock the chill out of our system. Along with the combination of good service, Holiday decor, and each other’s company; warmth came quickly.
This past Saturday, I viewed It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time this Season, and there is a scene at the end of the movie, in which Clarence the Angel gives George Bailey a note that reads, “No man is a failure who has friends”. Every time this part of the film comes up, I think of the people in my life now and those of yore. A warm feeling goes through my body that even the best mulled wine can’t equal. If you are one of those few who have never seen the film, give it a look, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
What makes the “mulled wine” so special to me is because it’s a tradition that people in my life help build. I hope you try the above mulled wine recipe for your next Holiday Party, and/or go to your local pub and get yourself a mug of the warm stuff. However you get to it, hopefully it becomes a part of your traditions; most of all I hope you get to share a toast with those who make the Holidays and Life in general so Wonderful.
Now, it’s your turn, have you tried the mulled wine called Glühwein or something similar, maybe you even want to try the recipe? Let us know in the comments so we can have a toast to the season! If you like this, we’d love for you to share it with your friends.
Travel TIP: Right before leaving on our Long-Term travels, we decided to treat ourselves to a few staycations in NYC because we had been staying at Brenda’s parents’ house for 6 months, in NJ. There were nights that we were just too tired to trek our way home. The hotel we enjoyed the most was the Grand Hyatt in Midtown, which is so close to everything and conveniently located next to Grand Central.