Cologne - The City Not the Spray

Some left over red blend, perfect for mulled wine

Some left over red blend, perfect for mulled wine

Originally Published in The Fairfax Chief on Dec 21, 2017

Christmas, for me, is Cologne – the German city, not the spray.

In Cologne and across Germany, December is marked by the tradition of Christmas markets. City squares are transformed into winter wonderlands. Giant Christmas trees and twinkling lights illuminate vendor stalls, selling everything from nativity scenes to samurai swords. Children stand on tippy toes longingly staring at every candy, chocolate and salted licorice imaginable – I always passed on the last one.

And amid this dentist’s dream, lies the holy grail – potato pancakes and mulled wine.

Gluhwein, or mulled wine, is the cure to all holiday woes. The wine is sweetened, spiced and then warmed in large pots making it perfect for cold evenings. Kartoffelpuffer, or potato pancakes, are golden-fried heavenly morsels. Germans enjoy this potato dish year-round but it truly shines when paired with Gluhwein. The artful dance of spice, salt and sweetness is a delicious combination only a long-standing tradition like the German Christmas market could devise.

But the best part of these foods was always the company we shared. Relatives visiting from America were ushered immediately from airport to Christmas market. Standing in awe, under the gaze of a gothic bell tower, with Gluhwein and Kartoffelpuffer in hand, you could see the stress of an American Christmas slip away.

This year, try your own slice of a German Christmas!


My own attempt...

If you drink wine while also cooking wine, it's important to remember both. 



·        1 bottle of red wine (Merlot or un-oaked Cab will work)

·        1 lemon, juiced (roughly 3-4 Tbsp of juice)

·        5 Tb sugar (more to taste)

·        3 whole cloves

·        1 cinnamon stick

·        1 orange, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces

·        1 orange, sliced for garnish, (optional)


1.      Put all the ingredients (except the orange garnishes) into a pot or large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a light simmer. Cover and reduce the heat to keep it just barely at a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour.

2.      After simmering, turn off the heat and let the wine continue to steep for 30 minutes. (At this point you can take a small spoonful and taste your Glühwein. If it needs more sugar for your tastes, go ahead a mix some in!)

3.      Remove the cloves and cinnamon stick.

4.      Serve the mulled wine warm with an orange slice garnish, if desired.