Christmas markets in Europe take the holiday traditions up a notch. With the scent of roasted chestnuts in the air, the sound of caroling in the background and the feel of the invigorating frosty air, it’s hard not to be smitten with this manner of winter celebration. Perhaps one of the most enchanting aspects? The chance to wander the craft stalls and ornament booths while sipping a small mug of delicious mulled wine.
Most Christmas market cruises in Europe will start and end in a major capital city. Typically, you’ll find several departures out of Budapest or Passau, while others sail from Nuremberg, Frankfurt, Prague, Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam. Among the most popular stops are Vienna, Bratislava, Salzburg and Strasbourg, where the Christmas market tradition is still going strong.
Magical European Christmas Markets
Whichever itinerary fits into your schedule, you’ll be treated to centuries-old holiday markets, which were traditionally a way for local villagers to stock up on the supplies needed for the winter ahead. Today, amidst sparkling lights and a dusting of snow, visitors and locals alike peruse the stalls of holiday treats, toys, ornaments, handicrafts, hot food and, yes, lots of Glühwein. Nearly every public house in town will pour a delightful mulled wine to take the chill off. Translated to “glow wine,” this is exactly how you’ll feel after indulging in this seasonal treat. (In the Czech Republic, look for the Svařák stand).
In anticipation of your Christmas market cruise in Europe, or perhaps to remind you of a wonderful cruise you already took, here’s how to make Glühwein at home (keep reading for a snack suggestions to go with your wine):
Traditional Mulled Wine
1/2 medium orange
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup turbinado or granulated sugar
20 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole star anise
1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine
Rum or amaretto, for serving (optional)
Zest the orange in wide strips, taking care to avoid the white pith; set aside. Juice the orange and set the juice aside.
Combine the water and sugar in a large, nonreactive saucepan and boil until the sugar has completely dissolved. Reduce the heat and add the cloves, cinnamon, star anise, orange zest and orange juice. Simmer until a fragrant syrup forms, about 1 minute.
Reduce the heat further and add the wine. Let it barely simmer for at least 20 minutes, but up to a few hours. Do not let it reach a full simmer.
Strain and serve in small mugs (the traditional way to serve it!), adding a shot of rum or amaretto and garnishing with the orange peel and star anise if desired.
What to Snack on While Sipping Mulled Wine at a Christmas Market
When it comes to savory and sweet snacks, you won’t want for choice at a European Christmas market. Bring an appetite! My favorite bites while strolling the market are:
Local bratwurst (each German town has different varieties, i.e., three short links on a bun in Nuremberg and a long, thin sausage in Regensburg)
Klobása sausages in the Czech Republic
Reibekuchen (potato fritters)
Trdelník/Baumstriezel (chimney cakes)
Gebranntemandeln (sugared almonds)
Mulled-wine recipe courtesy of https://www.thekitchn.com.
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