Glӧgg

Traditional, adapted from “Swedish Recipes Old and New” (1955).  By Lesley Jacobs Solmonson

15 Blanched Almonds
0.5 Cup Raisins
4 Cups Red Wine (Shiraz recommended)
4 Cardamom Pods
3 Whole Cloves
1.5 inch stick Cinnamon
0.25 Cup mix of Dried Apricots and Candied Orange Peel (see below)
0.75 Cup Brown Sugar (Demerara Sugar)
Peel of one-quarter Orange
1 Cup Remy Martin VSOP

Add the almonds and raisins to the wine. Break open the cardamom pods.  Add cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, raisins, candied orange peels, and dried apricots to a cheesecloth bag, tie closed, and add to the wine.
In a separate bowl, cover orange peel with the sugar.
Let all of the above stand overnight.

The next day: Heat wine mixture slowly to simmering.  Do not allow to boil. Stir in sugar and orange peels until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat.  Stir in brandy.  Remove cheesecloth bag.

Ignite liquid, allowing it to burn for a 1 or 2 seconds, then extinguish (you do not want to burn off the alcohol completely) by covering the pot.

Remove orange peels if Glӧgg is going to sit for more than a few hours. Serve warm with a few raisins and almonds in the bottom of the glass.

* * *

Drinking is a very personal pastime, particularly here at 12 Bottle Bar.  So, when David (my 51% Swedish husband) asked me to write about Glӧgg, a traditional Swedish Christmas drink, I immediately flashed back to my childhood.  First of all, a disclaimer:  I am not “officially” Swedish.  However, given my Scottish roots, it’s quite possible there was some pillaging and intermarriage in my family history, resulting in a bit of the Nordic gene. This could explain the traditional wooden Dala horse.  I’ve had since I was a little girl, as well as the eagerly-anticipated yearly pilgrimage my family made to the Swedish Mill, a now-defunct smorgasbord restaurant in Kingsburg, California.

I looked forward to that annual Mill trip with the sort of overwhelming excitement that only a child can feel. The multiple tables piled high with foodstuffs of every shape, color, and flavor seemed to me an expression of eternal optimism.  As luck would have it, I was able to preserve that optimism in literary form; the Mill sold a cookbook – “Swedish Recipes Old and New”, a 1955 gem from the American Daughters of Sweden – that allowed me to relive those early food experiences of meatballs and lingonberry sauce, spiced breads and potato dumplings (I never did manage a taste for pickled beets or herring, though). All these memories flashed back to me when we decided to feature Glӧgg, and it was in this weathered, little yellow and blue cookbook that I found the recipe we used here.

If you look for Glӧgg recipes on your own, you will quickly come to realize that, like most traditional drinks, it comes in many forms.  Every Germanic culture has its own version of the drink, be it the glühwein of Germany, the vin chaud of the Alsatian region in France, or the various glӧggs of Sweden and its sister countries of Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, and Finland.  In fact, countries as diverse as Chile (theirs is navegado) and Croatia (kuhano vino) have their own spiced wine punches.  All of them share similar ingredients – from the usually red wine base to the use of dried fruits to the practice of warming the ingredients.  Swedish Glӧgg recipes vary in the combination of fruit (raisins and prunes, or candied fruit), the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cardamom), and liquor (red wine or port and bourbon, brandy or vodka).  Like many drinks, and certainly all punch-style drinks, Glӧgg is forgivable – assemble it to your liking.

As with many of our recipes, we tweaked this one to our taste.  Starting with David Wondrich’s “oleo-saccharum” for punch-making, we infused the sugar (a rich, molassess-y demerara) with orange peels, allowing it to draw out the aromatic oils. We also substituted dried apricots for prunes. And, rather than using an ersatz mixture of packaged candied fruit, we made a quick batch of candied orange peel (simmer orange peels in rich simple syrup for several hours, adding water as needed), which complemented the flavor of the brandy and the orange-oil infused sugar.  The orange marries beautifully with the liquor-soaked raisins and almonds.  These latter two create a sort of spiked “fruit soup” (another traditional Swedish dish) in the bottom of the glass, which is why Glӧgg is traditionally served with a spoon.

As to wine, our original recipe called for a dry red wine, but many other recipes use port.  We opted for a sort of marriage of the two (the base foundation of the wine and the sweeter consistency of the port) by using a Shiraz, Australia’s more jammy version of French Syrah. This worked perfectly to our taste, adding a sweet rounded note to a drink that can often be an alcohol bomb.

I first discovered this fact – that Glӧgg packs a real punch (pardon the pun) — when I was a twentysomthing.  At a party hosted by a staff member of the Swedish Embassy in Los Angeles, I had my first glass of Glӧgg.  Being an alcohol neophyte, I found tears come to my eyes, followed by a warm, fuzzy feeling of blissful contentment. Those Embassy Swedes liked their Glӧgg strong and hot – and they drank a lot of it in a non-stop bacchanal of Christmas cheer (you never separate a Swede from his alcohol, especially around the holidays).  Aside from the laudable gift of introducing me to Glӧgg, those Nordic ambassadors to America taught me something else much more precious.  They impressed on me the importance of traditions – alcoholic or not – particularly during the holiday season.

This concept of tradition inspired our decision to feature Glӧgg as the mid-point to our 12 Drinks of Christmas.  It seemed only fitting to do something that was a bit personal to 12 Bottle Bar.  And so it is today – glass of Glӧgg in hand – that I find myself ruminating on the future and how to create those precious memories for my son.  “Swedish Recipes Old and New” is open on the counter, inspiring me to create a traditional Christmas Eve smorgasbord.  The Dala horses – mine, my husband’s, and the newest addition belonging to our son – are lined up in a row.  And the Glӧgg – for my husband and myself (the little guy will have to wait) – is warming on the stove, ready to serve as a reminder of Christmases past, present, and future, of where we come from and where we will go.

So, in the Swedish tradition, we wish you “God Jul” – that’s Merry Christmas to all you non-Vikings out there.

Esoterica: Along with Christmas, the Swedes and various other Nordic cultures celebrate St. Lucia or St. Lucy’s Day on December 13.  The holiday has its pagan origins in Lussinatta, or Lussi Night, when the witch-like Lussi flew through the air with her demonic gang.  Naughty children were told to take care on Lussi Night as the Lussi could come down the chimney and spirit them away, a bleak sort of pre-Christian version of Santa Claus sliding down the chimney.

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7 Responses to “Glӧgg”

  1. Andreas
    December 16, 2010 at 3:45 am #

    Lovely writeup! Being Swedish myself and looking out over a snow swept Stockholm at the moment you really made me crave glögg, more than ever.
    Here we have a wide selection of ready made glögg (60 variants last I checked) but the good old favorite still stands; “Blossa starkvinsglögg” If you can get your hands on a bottle, that’s the stuff right there. For an added punch, top it of with some white rum and you have your holiday made.
    Hot, spicy, sweet, strong and will thaw them bones like the midsummer sun.

    • December 16, 2010 at 9:15 am #

      Thanks, Andreas — getting a positive reply from Stockholm alone made the post worth doing! I can imagine a nice white rum working very well here — we lit ours with Wray and Nephew.

  2. December 16, 2010 at 4:34 am #

    A very charming story and lovely drink. Now that I’ve candied lemon peel, I’ll never go back to the gruesome store-bought stuff. It’s cold out east this time of year and perfect weather for warm drinks!!

  3. December 16, 2010 at 8:13 am #

    It’s nice to see the much-maligned glögg getting some positive press! My family’s recipe is, of course, slightly different, but I was raised with an appreciation of mulled wine (and pickled beets and herring and knackerbrod, etc., etc.). It’s the fuel that propels polar bear swimmers!

    And as an addendum—Lucia Night is also the first night of Jul, the first night of the Twelve Days of Christmas (being as Christmas Eve is actually the nights that most Swedes celebrate Christmas). Traditionally—at least in my family—it’s also a day for remembering your maternal ancestors, and daughters make their mothers breakfast to celebrate it. God Jul!

    • December 16, 2010 at 9:13 am #

      Marleigh, thanks for the compliment. With Glögg and the Snowball this week, we’re beginning to feel like the Island of Misfit Drinks over here. :)

      Saw your Lingonberry Margarita. Very nice. Didn’t know your were a Swede too — excellent. The “Swedish Recipes…” book has about five different versions, and we picked the one that fit best within the 12BB confines. It’s lovely, but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at any of the port-based ones. Heck, I’ll take whatever Glögg I’m offered.

  4. December 21, 2010 at 8:19 am #

    oh I love this drink, had it for the first time while in Copenhagen. I tried to make it myself last year, it was okay, it’s good to find a proper recipe !
    thank you :)

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