As we really settle into the cold months (accept it; winter is almost here), we begin to look for ways to stay warm. Break out the electric blankets and fuzzy slippers, the cups of hot chocolate, and the pots of tea — avoiding the bitter frost should be your focus.
This year, consider trying something new, especially if you’re throwing a holiday party or looking for a warm evening dram. Leave the hot toddies aside, and take a tip from our friends in Scandinavia, who are well-versed in surviving the dark, cold months: Make a batch of glögg.
What’s glögg, you ask? Well, besides a word that’s fun to say (the “o” is pronounced more like “oo”), glögg is a mulled wine made with fruits, spices, and, more often than not, port and brandy. Sometimes spelled as gløgg or glögi, the drink is a staple in homes around Scandinavia.
Sounds great, right? It is.
“Traditionally in Sweden we drink glögg as an aperitif during the holiday season,” chef Marcus Jernmark of Aquavit told us. “We have very cold winters, and between the alcohol levels and the heat of the drink, it will warm you right up when you arrive at a home for a celebration.” To his point, the name glögg comes from the term “glödgad vin,” which means “glowing wine.” The combination of heat and alcohol warms the body and often makes the drinker blush.
The mulled wine has a history that dates back hundreds of years, traveling from the Greeks and Romans — who believed it had medicinal qualities — to King Gustav I Vasa of Sweden in the 1500s and 1600s. Glögg as we know it — strong and spicy — showed up at the very end of the 19th century and has maintained its presence at Christmas gatherings and winter rendezvous ever since.
Lucky for us New Yorkers, there are plenty of places around the city to find a cup of glögg: Scandinavian chefs prepare their own versions, often based on family classics. Norweigan-born Morten Sohlberg of Smörgas Chef will be serving a twist on his family’s glögg during the month of December. Aamanns-Copenhagen will be offering up the Danish version of the drink with red wine, port, and rum; Aquavit will share the Swedish rendition, brewed with figs, cardamom, and bourbon. Taste them all, or make them at home for yourself with the recipes provided on the next page.
Smörgas Chef’s Glögg
by Morten Sohlberg
4 cups water
1 cup brandy or spiced rum
Peel from 1 large orange, cut into large strips
2 tablespoon whole cloves
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 cardamom pods
½ inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and crushed slightly with the back of a spoon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 sticks cinnamon
1 750-ml bottle dry red wine
1 cup vodka
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
Garnish: sliced blanched almonds and raisins
Heat the water, brandy and spices to boil; reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add wine, vodka, and sugar, and simmer for one minute. Strain out cloves and orange peel, and decant the glögg, leaving other spices behind. Add raisins and almonds to each glass upon serving.
Aamanns-Copenhagen Danish Gløgg
by Carl Kristian Frederiksen
2 bottles spicy red zinfandel wine
¼ cup port wine
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon (save the lemon)
1 pod cardamom
4 cinnamon sticks
10 black peppercorns
10 fennel seeds
2 star anise
1 vanilla bean, hollowed out (use both the bean and seeds)
1 tablespoon honey
6 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup dark rum
10 tablespoons chopped almonds
10 tablespoons raisins
Pour the wine into a large pot and add orange zest, lemon zest, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon sticks, peppercorn, fennel seeds, star anise, and vanilla bean. Heat to a simmer.
Add the honey and brown sugar, and whisk the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Add the rum. Add the juice from the lemon to taste, and strain the gløgg.
To serve, place a tablespoon of almonds and a tablespoon of raisins into each cup, and pour the strained gløgg evenly between the cups.
by Marcus Jernmark
2 cups dry red wine
½ cup golden raisins, additional for serving
12 cardamom pods
5 dried figs, sliced
4 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
1 orange, zest and juice
½ heaping cup sugar
½ cup vodka
¼ cup bourbon
blanched almonds, for serving
pepparkakor (ginger snaps), for serving
Place red wine, golden raisins, orange zest and juice, cardamom pods, figs, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and star anise in a large pot; bring to a simmer, stirring from time to time. Remove from heat, add sugar, and stir until fully dissolved. Heat vodka and bourbon; add to red wine mixture, stir and strain.
For serving: place a small handful of raisins in each glass, pour glögg evenly between the glasses, and serve with blanched almonds, raisins, and pepparkakor (ginger snaps) on the side.