Feuerzangenbowle is a Traditional Drink during the German Christmas Season:
Like glühwein, Feuerzangenbowle is a traditional alcoholic drink, often consumed as part of the German Christmas or New Year’s Eve tradition. We are very familiar with glühwein, and have had our share of it over the years. However, Feuerzangenbowle (pronounced: foyer-zangen-bowler) is a more recent experience. Literally translated as “fire-tongs punch”, this drink has quite a kick to it!
Traditional Christmas Drink
At the very popular German Christmas markets, drinking glühwein with friends or family is part of the Christmas celebrations. Glühwein is available at all the food and drink stalls. Feuerzangenbowle however is not so common.
The recipes for the two drinks are similar, but an addition to the feuerzangenbowle recipe is rum. A rum-soaked sugar loaf is set alight and it drips into the bowl of mulled wine to give it extra potency.
Made Popular by the Movie
The popularity of this festive drink in Germany was boosted by the 1944 film of the same name, “Die Feuerzangenbowle”.
In the opening scene of the comedy, a group of gentlemen consume feuerzangenbowle while exchanging nostalgic stories about their school days. Dr. Johannes Pfeiffer, a famous writer (played by Heinz Rühmann) is a key character. From the stories told by his friends, it seemed that he had missed out on the best part of growing up as he was educated at home. So Dr. Pfeiffer disguises himself as Hans Pfeiffer, a student, and has his fun playing practical jokes on his teachers. He finally ends his foolish prank when he falls in love with the headmaster’s daughter.
“Die Feuerzangenbowle” still enjoys cult status amongst university students today. Given the penchant for pranks amongst students, this is not surprising. But, it’s not necessary to know the whole story to enjoy the drink.
Different Styles of Serving Feuerzangenbowle
The stallholders at the Christmas markets have different pots for brewing and serving this beverage. In addition to enjoying the drink, it is entertaining to watch feuerzangenbowle being prepared and served.
The best feuerzangenbowle show, I thought, was at the Berlin Kurfürstendamm City Weihnachtsmarkt, next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. This is one of our favourite Berlin Christmas markets. The barman dressed up to look like Heinz Rühmann, the star character in Die Feuerzangenbowle. When you order the drink, individual purpose-designed feuerzangenbowle mugs are filled with glühwein. The barman then places a sugar cube on the small sugar rack. Rum is poured over the sugar which he then lights. It is quite a performance and watching him make the drink was just as enjoyable as the drink itself.
Tony however liked the one at the Dresden Striezelmarkt. Ordinary Christmas market mugs were used there, but there were two beautiful young women serving the drink…I say no more!