Yesterday we had a Christmas party in the university and of course the highlight was, as it is always in winter time in Germany, the famous Feuerzangenbowle-the Fire-tongs punch.
The popularity of this drink has been boosted by the 1944 German film comedy Die Feuerzangenbowle. In that historical time it was a traditional drink of some fraternities who also called it Krambambuli as the red colour was reminiscent of an eponymous cherry liqueur from Danzig. Since the 1980s, the movie has gained cult film status at many German universities. During party-like showings in university auditoriums in early December, students bring props to participate in the movie’s action similar to audience participation in showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. For example, the audience will ring alarm-clocks whenever an alarm-clock rings in the movie and use flashlights when in the movie Hans Pfeiffer uses a pocket mirror to pinpoint the location of the Goths on a map behind the teacher’s back in order to help a fellow student in history class. In 2006, more than 10,000 students participated in this tradition in Göttingen alone but here in Münich the fire-tongs punch stands are open every day until next year.
The fire-tong punch is prepared in a bowl, which is set on fire and drips into mulled wine (a red wine combined with spices and it is served warm). The procedure is similar to a fondue set, because Feuerzangenbowle is also prepared in a bowl, which is usually suspended over a small burner (rechaud). The bowl is filled with heated dry red wine spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange peel, similar to mulled wine. The Feuerzange was originally a pair of tongs, but nowadays it is common for a purpose-designed metal grate mounted on top of the bowl to hold the Zuckerhut (sugarloaf or literally “sugar hat”), a sugar cone 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 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 mellow-Gemütlichkeit.