The aromas from Glögg (pronounced “glewgg”) simmering in a pot is the essence of Christmas for me. This brew has all the spices that I equate with the Holiday Season. If you visit Sweden in December you cannot avoid it - it is the welcome drink wherever you go that month. This mulled wine is served hot during the four weeks leading up to Christmas, the Advent time, together with ginger snaps and saffron bread.
The tradition in Sweden stems from medieval times when wine could not be preserved for very long and by the time it reached the Nordic countries it usually tasted pretty bad. Herbs and spices were expensive and adding them while heating the wine both enhanced it and made it a very festive drink for the cold Holiday season. Already the Romans put herbs in the wine since the wines were usually quite sour and there was no good way of preserving the wine for long. In Scandinavia the name Glögg was adopted, which means “glowing hot” and it came from the tradition of burning cognac under a sugar cone, letting the sugar and cognac drip into the mulled wine and sweetening it. This is of course the perfect drink in the cold month of December in a country like Sweden.
The main ingredients in Glögg are cinnamon bark, cardamom pods, and whole pieces of ginger, raisins and dried orange rinds which simmer in the wine as it is heated. You also add sugar and I like using brown sugar, it enhances the taste. It is also common to fortify with cognac or aquavit. Once the brew has simmered for a while you let it sit for an hour or a day or two and eventually you sift out all the spices and pour it into clean bottles. Before serving it you heat it up again. Many families have their own variations of the theme, but it is most often served with raisins and slivered almonds in the cup and often accompanied by ginger snaps and saffron bread.
You should not use your best wine for this drink, remember, this used to be a way to enhance the bad wine. Once you have added all the ingredients you cannot taste what wine you started with anyway. I use a very inexpensive wine from the grocery store for ths purpose. My Glögg recipe is in the recipe section on this web site. Enjoy!