Citizens! Know with unwavering certainty that your Beloved – the Kaiser of Kaleidoscopic Karma, YOUR TFD! – is already shifting into full holiday mode and few recipes are more evocative of Christmas to Germans than the flaming mulled wine known as feuerzangenbowle! Roughly translating to ‘fire tongs punch’, this is a beloved German tradition during the holiday and now that TFD is visiting Germany on a regular basis, I am keen to share some of their heirloom recipes with TFD Nation!
Feuerzangenbowle is a traditional German alcoholic drink for which a large, rum-soaked sugar cone is set on fire and then drips into warm mulled wine. The popularity of the drink was boosted in Germany by the 1944 film comedy Die Feuerzangenbowle.
It is a traditional drink of some German fraternities, who also call it Krambambuli, as the red colour is reminiscent of a cherry liqueur of that name which was manufactured by the distillery Der Lachs zu Danzig [de] (in Gdańsk).
Feuerzangenbowle is prepared in a bowl, similar to a fondue set, which usually is suspended over a small burner (rechaud). The bowl is filled with heated dry red wine typically spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise and orange peel, similar to mulled wine.
The Feuerzange was originally a pair of tongs, but nowadays it is common for a purpose-designed metal grate mounted on top of the bowl to hold the Zuckerhut (sugarloaf or literally “sugar hat”), a sugar cone of 250 g. The sugar is soaked with rum and set alight, melting and caramelizing.
The rum should have at least 54% alcohol per volume, such as the high proof Austrian rum Stroh, and be at room temperature in order to burn properly. More rum is poured with a ladle until all the sugar has melted and mixed with the wine. The resulting punch is served in mugs while the burner keeps the bowl warm.
For some Germans, the ceremony is more important than the drink itself, celebrating the gathering of friends and conveying a notion of ‘Gemütlichkeit’ – a word used to convey the idea of a state or feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer. Other qualities encompassed by the term include coziness, peace of mind, and a sense of belonging and well-being springing from social acceptance. Another word that conveys similar meaning is the Danish and Norwegian word ‘hygge’.
PLEASE NOTE that you should always use extreme caution when handling high-proof alcohol and open flame! Use long wooden matches or extended candle lighters to ignite the sugar, NOT SHORT MATCHES or cigarette lighters. Be very careful that nothing flammable such as paper or cloth are around and for ultimate caution, keep a fire extinguisher at the ready.
For true feuerzangenbowle authenticity, you should only use a good German red wine for this punch – Trollinger is my preferred choice, you can find bottles to buy here. Of course, you will need the proper German sugar cone to make this recipe – you can buy it here. To support the sugar cone, you’ll need a proper holder – get one here!
Proper heating of the mulled wine is essential – too hot, and the volatile oils of the spices and citrus (not to mention the alcohol itself!) burn away, while too cool and the flavor isn’t properly extracted. According to this article, a Chemistry Doctoral candidate researched the exact proper temperature for making mulled wine – turns out it is 79 degrees Centigrade, 174 degrees Fahrenheit! Make sure you monitor the temperature closely and with a highly-accurate thermometer!
I have tweaked the recipe with a few optional spices and flavors I enjoy, they are noted in the recipe and feel free to omit them for the classic version.
Citizens, even if you’re not German, I couldn’t recommend this recipe for feuerzangenbowle and its traditions strongly enough for you and your families! Give it a try and be sure to offer up a respectful toast to your Beloved TFD, the true Scion of Selflessness for the holidays! 🙂 Enjoy it with a slice of delicious and suitably festive Frankfurt Crown Cake!
Battle on – the Generalissimo
P.S. – If you want to watch a crackling Yule Log fire but don’t have a fireplace, TFD uses this for his holiday viewing. 😉