Feuerzangenbowle - the Drink, the Movie, the Cult
Created | Updated Aug 29, 2003
When you visit Germany in the cold months you might come across a drink called Feuerzangenbowle - sometimes referred to as Crambambuli. The cult status this beverage has achieved over the past few decades is in part owed to its warming and intoxicating effects, and in part to the movie named after it.
First, there was the drink. Its origins are unknown, quite unlike its effects. To appreciate the drink, let us take a closer look at its preparation.
Some weeks before the Feuerzangenbowle is to be served, buy:
- 4 Oranges
- 1 Lemon (friends of a healthy lifestyle might want to add raisins and two apples)
- 1 bottle of rum (54%)
Peel all the fruit, separate the flesh and place the segments in a bowl. Add rum to cover the fruit, put a lid on the bowl, and let it sit until the day of the Feuerzangenbowle. If a weaker effect is desired, skip the bit about soaking the fruit.
For the Bowle itself you will need:
- 4-5 bottles of red wine (to avoid a storming hangover, it may pay not to buy the cheapest red available)
- 1 bottle of rum (54%)
- 4 cloves
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 1 cone of sugar1
- A Feuerzange2
Pour the wine into a big pot and add the cinnamon and the cloves.
Add the rum-soaked fruit, saving the rum3.
Heat the mixture to a temperature at which it starts steaming.
Place the Feuerzange over the pot and place the cone on it horizontally, not upright. Now use a large scoop to douse the cone with rum.
When the cone is nicely soaked, dim the light and ignite the sugar. You will be treated to a nice display of blue flames and of bits of molten, burning sugar dripping into the wine.
Continue to pour rum onto the cone until it's fully molten and has disappeared into the wine.
Remove the Feuerzange once all the flames have died down and serve the Feuerzangenbowle in mugs.
The mixture of hot wine, rum and sugar ensures an immediate feeling of warmth and relaxation for the consumer. This makes it the perfect drink for a cold winter night. Sometimes you will find Feuerzangenbowle being offered at Christmas markets. Don't try it, stick to the Glühwein ('mulled wine') instead.
A Word of Caution
Be prepared for igniting the cone of sugar. Flames might reach a height of 50cm so make sure the space above the pot is free. Most importantly use a metal scoop and never, ever pour the rum straight from the bottle. Also, be aware of the fact that the Feuerzange itself will be a little warmer than room temperature, so do not remove it with your bare hands.
Also, the drink will be rather sticky when it dries and might leave stains due to the red wine.
Note that the amounts given above will produce about 3500ml of Feuerzangenbowle, thus, when supplying 10 people it's about one large mug per person. It might be advisable to stock enough goods to produce more than one Feuerzangenbowle.
Now that we all know what a Feuerzangenbowle is, we can appreciate the movie. The film dates from 1944 and is a German production. The plot is based on the book Die Feuerzangenbowle by Heinrich Spoerl.
The story starts with a group of distinguished people sitting around a Feuerzangenbowle. They start discussing the pranks and fun they had at school when it turns out that one of them, Dr Johannes Pfeiffer (played by Heinz Rühmann), didn't attend a public school and never experienced these joys with his private teacher. In the mood brought about by the drink, they decide that the famous author is to be sent to a small town and to go to school there for some time. After changing his hair-style and shaving off his beard, Heinz Rühmann looks quite like the other pupils, which is rather surprising since he was 42 years old when the film was made. So Dr Pfeiffer attends this school, plays all the pranks and has an enormous amount of fun while also falling in love with a pupil from the nearby girls' school.
The movie has developed into a cult over the years and just about every student cinema will show this film a couple of weeks before Christmas. Usually they screen it a number of times, unlike many other films. The sessions are sold out very quickly and if one plans to go there for a good time it might be advisable to try to secure the tickets before the night of the event.
For a successful evening you will need a flashlight and an alarm clock - a mechanical one that goes 'rrriiinnnggg' rather than an electronic one going 'beep'. Now, every time the alarm clock rings in the movie, you ring your own. The flashlight will be necessary for the scene in the movie where Pfeiffer helps one of his friends in a history class by reflecting sunlight off his watch onto the map.
There are numerous other actions to be carried out at specific points of the movie, as tradition and cult dictate. The best idea would be to go and see it for yourself, but make sure you go to a students' cinema.
And having a bit of the drink beforehand will help you to appreciate the atmosphere just that little bit more.