Maibowle – German May Wine

Maibowle (May Wine) is a German aromatized drink consumed in the spring. Bowle is the german name for punch, so Maibowle can also be translated as May Punch. Other names include Maitrank, Maiwein, and Waldmeisterbowle, the latter referring to the name of the herb used for aromatizing it, Waldmeister (sweet woodruff).

The traditional Maybowle recipe requires 2 parts white wine and one part sparkling wine (a ratio of 2:1), to which a bunch of Waldmeister (sweet woodruff) is added. Sparkling wine can be replaced by sparkling water. Since strawberries are in season, many also add those fruits in the drink for more freshness. Others, however, may add lemon or mint to it.

The specific taste of this drink is given by coumarin, the substance contained in Waldmeister. However, in large quantities, this is toxic. Excessive consumption can have side effects like headaches, dizziness, and nausea.

When it comes to Waldmeister, you either love it or hate it. I love Waldmeister so I try to use it every time I get the chance. But its particular flavor is not for everyone.

How to make a delicious Maibowle (May Wine)?

For this, you will need to harvest the Waldmeister (sweet woodruff) the day before, in order to get the most flavor. Freshly harvested is also fine but you will get a less aromatic drink. My plants are rather small so I like to cut just after the 3rd row of leaves from the top. The recommended quantity of fresh plants consumed by a person in a day is about 0,1mg / kg (weight), but no more than 3g per day.

Ingredients for Maibowle (German May Wine):

  • 1,5 l white wine (2 bottles a 0,75l)
  • 0,75 l sparkling wine
  • 1 bunch of Waldmeister/Sweet Woodruff (about 10-15 fresh plants)
  • Strawberries (optional)
  1. Wash the sweet woodruff, dry it, and let it wilt overnight in a paper towel. You can also use it fresh.
  2. The second day tie it with some string so you can later take if out of the drink easier.
  3. Cut the strawberries in smaller pieces and put them in the recipient for the drink.
  4. Add the white wine and the sparkling wine.
  5. Add the Waldmeister (sweet woodruff) on top and set it aside for about half an hour. If you use fresh plants, you may want to leave it longer (up to 2 hours) in order to get a stronger aroma.
  6. Pay attention: the cut ends can give a bitter taste to the drink so, in order to prevent this, you can tie the string higher so that they don’t touch the liquid. I like the flavor so I usually let it be.
  7. Enjoy it! Some people like adding sugar, sparkling water, or ice cubes. Feel free to experiment and find the right taste for you.

Don’t throw away the Waldmeister! After taking it out, remove the excess liquid with a paper towel and let it dry in the fridge, in a dry paper towel. The fridge is going to smell amazing. When it’s dried, you can either put it in a small jar and store it in a dark dry place or you can keep it in the fridge till it’s completely gone. Add a pinch of it in your herbal tea and you’ll get a sweet fragrance thanks to the content of coumarin contained in the plant.

In German supermarkets, you can find small bottles of wine, usually 0,25l or 0.2l. They are quite convenient so I like buying 3 small ones and enjoy a Waldmeisterbowle (sweet woodruff wine) every now and then. I used 5 small plants for 0,75l wine (2 bottles a 0,25l white wine and 1 bottle of sparkling wine).

Maibowle (German May Wine) in a glass, with fresh strawberries and waldmeister (sweet woodruff)
Maibowle (German May Wine) in a glass, with fresh strawberries and waldmeister (sweet woodruff)