Photo of The Day: Warming the Winter Adventures with German Feuerzangenbowle

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Camera: Canon 5D | Lens: EF24-105mm | Setting: f/4, 1/8, ISO 1600

As a nine-year old girl with big, brown, criminally beautiful eyes tells me you're not supposed to call people weird. They're "artsy." So, I have a bunch of artsy friends who like to make a tradition out of gathering deep in the desert totally off the grid on the weekend after Thanksgiving. It starts with all participants knowing just three things:

  1. Who's coming and how the responsibilities of food, drink, firewood, and frisbees are divvied up
  2. A location in the form of a geodetic datum
  3. That we're going to make a couple pots of feuerzangenbowle, the stuff you see ablaze here

It's an underground event, just a gathering of friends who like dirt roads, sweeping vistas, tall tales, strong drinks, fresh air, and happy hearts. Back in high school, we called this sort of thing a "docker." A party beyond the city limits. The version you're getting here, on the other hand, is legal and far more family friendly. Now that I've said that, yes, it's more art than quirk. Children understand the world so much better than adults. Uh right . . . except at bedtime and they're challenging, once again, the concept of putting on pajamas and going to sleep.

So what is this stuff? Feuerzangebowle is the potent and fiery German concoction you see here in the pots. It shares a theme with Scandinavian Glögg. Both are festive warm wine drinks of winter celebration made in large pots with spices and orange peels. The Germans add rum and sugar. Glögg, in an apparent attempt to one-up the German version, uses rum, sugar, and bourbon. As well as almonds, raisins and cinnamon. It's made by mixing everything into a pot except a sugar cone. The cone rests in a cradle above the pot, gets soaked in rum and eventually lit on fire. For the following half-hour or so the sugar-rum melts and drips into the heated pot of wine and spices.

On a tranquil 35-degree night in the desert with some friends, this stuff lubricates the tall-tale muscles just as good as anything else. In some ways it's better: it's warm and it's made with a spirited three-foot tall flame. I dare not consider the calorie count in a 12oz mug of this stuff.

Like all good things in life, you enjoy the drink slowly with a batch of good friends. Without the distractions of home or The Big Game on the screen, we typically add a long dirt road into a blank space on the map, a dark starry sky, and a bunch of, uh, artsy people to catch up with late into the night while the kids make s'mores. The point remains a traditional one, which is to celebrate the season, and to celebrate a wonderful, mysterious, beautiful life. Then wake up to the sun casting a miraculous golden wave of light upon a desert canyon.

If you really are curious how to make this drink, try this fine glögg recipe at home or at camp. I think you'll like it:


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