Feuerzangenbowle!

A few weeks ago my mom and I went on our annual holiday outing to Christmas shop and eat and generally be merry, and we went to the Vancouver Winter Market beside the Queen Elizabeth Theatre downtown because the ad said there would be food and festivity and because this was the first time we’d ever heard of the thing.

When we got there, the first thing we saw was a kiosk dispensing something German we couldn’t pronounce, but it smelled good so we put a deposit on a pair of mugs and had our first round. Feuerzangenbowle, the thing we got, is mulled wine with cinnamon, cloves, star anise, orange, and rum, and when I did a bit of research I discovered that it’s also something that involves fire, which stirred my mild pyromaniacal urges in the best possible way.

The most important thing about feuerzangenbowle is zuckerhut, a sugar cone which is doused repeatedly in rum and set on fire above the heated wine mixture. The sugar caramelizes and melts into the wine, and the result is magic. I wanted to create this on Christmas, so I asked Brigitte, a German lady I work with, how to spell the thing I wanted to make (I still can’t, and pulled the name from the email she sent me, which also included this recipe for “rumtopf,” which I also must make) and where to buy the zuckerhut. I ended up not being able to find it in town, but she would be going to Greco’s Specialty Foods in Surrey and she had called and found that they had some, and she would pick one up for me. And she did.

To find zuckerhut, visit your local German deli; if they don’t have it, they may be able to order some in for you.

And so, on Christmas Day, we poured two bottles of cheap, off-dry red wine into a Crock Pot, and set it to heat for an hour. We added strips of orange and lemon peel, and two cinnamon sticks and two cloves to the pot and let it simmer with the lid on; next time, we’ll add two star anise pods and slice the orange and lemon into the pot so that the fruit flavour is more pronounced. Our adapted recipe comes from this one from WikiBooks, but deviates significantly enough that I’m okay calling the recipe below an original interpretation – we wanted it to taste like the drink we had at the Winter Market, and I think we made it work.

After an hour, we placed the zuckerhut in a wire mesh strainer and held it over the pot. We poured rum over top, and then lit the cone on fire. It was awesome. We ended up using about a cup and a half of rum; the cheap white stuff worked better than the good amber stuff for burning. When there was no more rum and we couldn’t light the sugar on fire anymore, we stirred the remains of the cone into the pot and let it dissolve. We served it in mugs immediately, and felt very warm and delighted and then had naps.

Feuerzangenbowle

(Serves six.)

  • 2 bottles of off-dry red wine
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 zuckerhut
  • 1 1/2 cups rum

Heat wine with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, orange, and lemon slowly. If using a Crock Pot, set on high heat and let sit for about an hour. Do not bring to a boil. If heating on the stove, heat over medium-low heat, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes.

Suspend zuckerhut in a wire mesh strainer (one that has no plastic on the edges of the strainer). Pour two tablespoons of rum over top, ignite, and continue feeding the flame with small amounts of rum until no rum remains. Do not pour rum directly from the bottle.

Stir any remaining sugar from the zuckerhut into the pot, test temperature, and if it’s warm enough to serve, ladle the drink into mugs.

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12 thoughts on “Feuerzangenbowle!

  1. Mmmmmm mulled wine. I got my mother-in-law drunk one Christmas Eve with mulled wine and now she’s so mortified she won’t drink it when I make it. She did nothing embarrassing but there is no reason why she must know that. I think I love Germans. Anyone who adds fire and rum to something already awesome is good in my book.

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  2. That looks SO tasty.

    By the way, “mild pyromaniacal urges” is SO YOU and should be either the name of your first published novel OR the title of a biography written about you after your urges get the better of you. Not that I want that to happen. I like your food too much.

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  3. Anything that flames is good to me, and if it has rum and wine involved it’s even better! I’ll look for zuckerhut at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market next time we pass through Atlanta.

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  4. Oh wow – I just noticed all the feedback just now. In summary: I love Germans too! There used to be this website that I think might have been a joke but the premise was that you could rent a German for your party and I thought that was a great idea. Then I found out you can only rent Germans in Europe, which is sort of sad. You can approximate the German experience with food and drink, however, which makes the sadness dissipate. I hope you try it!

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  5. Just drinking a glass of Feuerzangenbowle now – a gift from my lovely German friend, Ulli. She gave me the sugar cone as well as the tongs to melt it in. It also came with a bag of Feuerzangenbowle Tee which contained all the usual spices and dried apples and, I think, cherries and possibly almonds. The tea sachet was that yummy itself I could have put it in a plate and described it as pot pourri! Anyway, I ran out of Zucker Hut last year and so used rough brown sugar cubes which worked just as well. I reckon any Brits reading this who live in the Midlands will be able to pick up the ingredients at the Birmingham Christmas market but I’d love to know of anywhere we can order the goodies in the UK. Got to say, the Germans really know how to do Christmas!

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    1. I love the idea of using dried fruit – I’ll make a mental note for next year! How many sugar cubes did you use? I was thinking they would work as well, but found the math impossible (especially after three mugs of the stuff) so I stopped trying to think about it. It would be good to have backup, though, in case the search for the zuckerhut becomes too difficult before next Christmas.

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  6. Germans are really high maintenance. They insist on me not abusing butter, sugar, salt, cleaning up after myself, turning off the light, recycling and other such ridiculously difficult things. My roomie is German. I thought it was just him but nope, German girls are just as bad. I suspect, however, that these may not be real Germans because they drink wine and campari, not beer. Before renting a German, you want to check the bonafides. Fair warning.

    I want to make this! Goddamn Zuckerhut!

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