Original source: David Wondrich
This is a video from the first time I tried making a feuerzangenbowle.
The song playing is Manheim Steamroller’s God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, which has become our official song for lighting a feuerzangenbowle.
Get a large (3 or 4-quart) pot (I used a dutch oven) and heat the wine, citrus slices, lemon peel studded with the gloves, nutmeg, and the cinnamon to a simmer over low heat. The principle here, I think, is to give the wine a chance to be infused by the various ingredients you’ve put inside it. I’ve definitely cut corners a number of times, here, and heated the wine more quickly, so you can do it, but you’re compromising how much of the spice you get in the finished product.
Once you’ve mulled the wine as much as you want and it’s nice and hot, place it wherever you’re going to do the presentation. David Wondrich recommends putting it on a trivet over a sheet pan full of water for safety reasons, and I definitely did that the first couple times I tried it, but I’ve since relaxed.
I’ve accidentally gotten blue alcohol flame on the tablecloth making a different drink, and the tablecloth was fine. I’m not saying that you should be reckless, but I also don’t fully understand the level of caution some people feel about drinks on fire. (Famous last words.) Yes, be cautious about anything nearby that’s flammable. Take the precautions you feel are warranted. I do keep a pitcher full of water close at hand.
Lay a pair of fireplace tongs over the top. You don’t have fireplace tongs? Yeah, I didn’t either. I used two long, metal ladles crossed at an angle. Later, I bought a pair of specially made feuerzangenbowle tongs. You need something metal (neither flammable nor meltable) that doesn’t have any channels that will send liquid, molten sugar anywhere it’s not supposed to be. You just need some contrivance to suspend the zuckerhut above the pot in a way that keeps it secure while allowing it to slowly drip through.
Soak the zuckerhut thoroughly with the rum, keeping a bunch of it in reserve to keep adding as the zuckerhut burns.
You’ll need a ladle that won’t melt or burn to ignite the rum and to spoon the remaining rum periodically over the zuckerhut. If it’s metal, be conscious that heat can potentially travel up the length of the handle, making it too hot to hold. I use a metal ladle and haven’t had a problem, but be careful. Take a ladleful of rum and light it. (As with most drinks you set fire to, the most practical and safe way to light them is with one of those long candle lighters.)
Take the lit ladleful of rum and pour it on to the soaked zuckerhut. The zuckerhut, then the whole surface of the wine below, should catch fire.
Now you’re running the show: add more rum from time to time as the flames seem to be dying down. At some point, you can add ladles full of wine and pour that on top, too. Be warned: the flames from the wine are yellow and beautiful, but less hot than the rum flames and won’t melt the sugar as quickly. I think there’s a real balance to play with in terms of how frequently you add rum/wine to the zuckerhut: letting it burn more without interference will result in sugar dripping into the wine that’s more caramalized, which affects the taste. Is it ideal to go for as caramelized a taste as possible? I don’t know. I haven’t been able to find anyone who even mentions this aspect of the drink. I asked Wondrich about it in person, and he seemed interested by the question, but hadn’t previously thought about it.
For the rum, Smith & Cross is delicious, sufficiently high proof to burn well, inexpensive, and readily available. I tried splitting it with Batavia Arrack, which was an option listed in Wondrich’s original recipe, and I found negligible taste alteration and a decrease in flammibility.
I’ve tried a few different red wines – Trader Joe’s Grower’s Reserve merlot seems to do the job just fine. I haven’t really noticed much difference when I’ve tried slightly more expensive wines.
I decreased the called-for lemons from two to one, as the original recipe was a little tart for my taste.
To stud the lemon peel with the cloves, I recommend using a metal cocktail pick to poke six holes in the peel along its length, then insert the cloves. If you try to poke the cloves directly through, a lot of them will break.
Zuckerhuts are the hardest thing to procure in this recipe: we’ve got a German store near us that’s an absolute delight to shop at before Christmas, but you can also order them online, though you’ll pay a fair shipping & handling fee. The logical solution at that point is: buy a whole bunch of them.