Feuerzangenbowle

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A.K.A., “Fire Tongs Punch.”

And just in case you think I made that word up….

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Christmas markets in Austria are basically outdoor bars.  Sure, they’re selling ornaments and little wooden things and marshmallows on a stick, but sometimes all that just seems like an excuse to sell the alcohol.  Most Christmas Market food is drunk food anyway when you really think about it.  Huge pretzels, fresh-cut potato chips, bratwurst, hot melted cheese on everything…

The boys are especially sensitive to the raclette wafting through the air.  As Eli puts it, “why would I want to eat bread that smells like someone wiped their butt on it?”

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We first heard about Feuerzangenbowle from my friend Pamela, who is half German.  Immediately it seemed important to try this thing because the name was just so long.  How could it not be good?  What is it?

The Wikipedia definition says:

“Feuerzangenbowle is prepared in a bowl which is suspended over a small burner. The bowl is filled with heated dry red wine 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 to use a metal grate mounted on top of the bowl to hold the Zuckerhut, a sugar loaf around seven inches long. The sugar is soaked with rum and set alight, melting and caramelizing.  The rum should have at least 54% alcohol per volume 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 the ceremony is more important than the drink itself, celebrating the gathering of friends and conveying a notion of Gemütlichkeit.”

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We encountered our first Feuerzangenbowle one afternoon, wandering around the Christmas market in Graz.

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Time to try Feuerzangenbowle!!

Wary of the “mulled wine” part, we got one to share, along with an Orange Punsch.  I don’t really like mulled wine other then for the festive nature of drinking it with friends, but fortunately Austria has many other hot drink choices at Christmas.  So far we’ve seen mixed berry, orange, peach and apple punches, along with several “turbo” and “winterjack” options.  Gluhwein comes in both white and red.  My favorite so far is the Orange Aperol Punch, although you have to be careful because sometimes it just tastes like hot Tang.  Which is not a good taste.

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The verdict?

It was okay.  It tastes a lot like gluhwein, so if you like gluhwein you would probably love feuerzangenbowle.  But if I’m choosing to have a fun hot drink outside at a Christmas Market in Austria, it’s still going to be Punsch.

And drunk food.  Käsespaetzle and potato chips!

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And Hot Cocoa.  Kids get Christmas drinks too.

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