Feuerzangenbowle - Gastro Obscura
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Nothing says “happy holidays” quite like mulled wine and a flaming, rum-soaked sugar loaf.

Who needs cookies when you have sugar, booze, and fire? A feuerzangenbowle is a German Christmas drink (literally “fire tongs punch”), but the term also applies to the equipment you need to make it. It’s basically a traditional mulled wine (called glühwein in German) that comes with a rum-soaked sugar loaf. The latter, which sits atop a grate over the wine, is set on fire so all the delicious, boozy sugar can drip into the drink.

This special punch starts as red wine that is warmed and spiced with the likes of cinnamon, clove, orange peel, and cardamom (you can find recipes for that, plus the whole feuerzangenbowle process, online). Once the base beverage is ready, you’ll need some overproof rum (industry slang for rum that’s more than 50 percent alcohol; this is also sometimes called “navy strength”), such as Plantation O.F.T.D., and a compressed cone of sugar, called a zuckerhut. You can make your own zuckerhut by packing damp sugar into the mold of your choice, but it’s a fiddly process that involves drying overnight. Once the zuckerhut has been soaked in super-boozy rum, you place it on a metal grate that goes over the wine-filled bowl and light it on fire. The melted, rum-infused sugar drips down into the mulled wine, giving it a boozy, caramelly flavor that makes it even more festive and delicious.

If you’re in Germany during the holidays, your visit wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a Christmas market for a feuerzangentasse, which is kind of what it sounds like: a cup of glühwein with the boozy, caramelized sugar from the feuerzangenbowle already included. Christmas markets abound in Germany and usually run from late November until Christmas, but the markets in Cologne’s city center are especially fairy tale-like, and you’re sure to find a feuerzangentasse there.

Need to Know

For those outside Germany, the feuerzangenbowle is the kind of Christmas treat you make at home, much like misshapen gingerbread men. You can buy a traditional feuerzangenbowle and zuckerhut online, and while you can improvise using a fondue set or fireproof punch bowl, it’s best to use the right equipment for the job.

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D Diane McMartin
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