Czech word of the week: 'Svařák' warms us up but what's in a name?

Learn the origins of the Czech word for hot wine and how to make this beloved holiday beverage at home.

Eva Koudelíková

Written by Eva Koudelíková
Published on 14.12.2020 14:50 (updated on 30.12.2020)

The first batch of what we call today mulled wine was likely created by the ancient Romans who would eventually bring it to Europe; the spice-kissed winter beverage first appeared in English in a 14th-century cookbook called "The Forme of Cury."

The original recipe hasn't changed much since then, and whether you order a mulled wine, glühwein, glögg, or svařák (also svařené víno) you will typically be served red wine simmered with cinnamon (skořice) and cloves (hřebíček) and served hot.

In the Czech Republic, a little rum (or gin) and sugar, orange (or lemon) slices, raisins, nuts, and cinnamon with star anise are added to the recipe (add a little vodka and currant juice and you get a more potent Russian variation).

Origins of the name

In Czech svařit means to boil. Svařák refers to boiled or rather "decocted" wine that is boiled to extract spices. During the communist era making mulled wine this way also meant "correcting" low-quality wine with sugar and spices to mask its imperfections.

In Czech, svařit also means to weld metal together so technically if you wanted to give svařák a fun English cocktail name might call it "a welder" (svářeč/svářečka).

The word in practice

Despite the fact that consumption of hot beverages outside is currently a steamy subject in the Czech Republic, or that we may be left alone with our own homemade recipes after the latest round of restrictions, here are a few ways to practice the word in conversation with your Czech friends.

  • Dáme si svařák? Let’s have some mulled wine.
  • Kde mají nejlepší svařák? Where do they serve the best mulled wine?
  • Nechceš svařák na zahřátí? What about mulled wine for warming up?

Once you've mastered the art of asking for one in Czech, the only thing left to do is make your own. Try our recipes for a couple of different versions of homemade svařák here.