Had enough ‘nog? Switch to glögg! For centuries, Scandinavians have eschewed the heaviness of the cliché egg based flip, opting for a mulled wine variation popularized by a 17th century Swedish king. Being a drink of royalty, this is no ordinary mulled wine! Glögg boasts all the typical baking spices, plus a ton of hard liquor thrown in for good measure. With a description like this, we had to rack up some international call charges and learn more about this beverage.
First of all, glögg does not really rhyme with nog; rather, it is pronounced gloog. The drink is prevalent throughout Nordic nations. In Norway and Denmark, it’s spelled gløgg. In Finland and Estonia, it’s spelled glögi. In Iceland and Sweden, it’s glögg and the Swedish are believed to have created the drink. So, we’ll go with their word.
About that Swedish origin story… it’s complicated. The concept of spiced wine is almost as old as wine itself (largely because in the early days of viticulture, wine was—not good. Some masking flavors really helped.) Scholars agree that the Egyptians were drinking the stuff by at least 3150BC. Hippocrates was later credited with inventing the hippocratic sleeve, a conical teabag-like device for infusing wine. Of course, no mention of early vino is complete without a reference to Pliny the Elder. The much cited Roman writer drops numerous references to spiced wine which the Romans like to pair with toast.
When wine spread from the Mediterranean to the colder climates of Europe, hot wine was a natural evolution. Most nations created their own version. (Surely, you’ve had mulled wine?) However, the Swedes really took it to the next level. Legend has it that King Gustav I Vasa favored a drink called glödgad vin which translates as “glowing-hot wine.” According to materials from Stockholm’s Wine & Spirits Museum, ol’ Gustav was drinking a heated punch of wine, sugar, honey, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves by 1609. By the mid-19th century, the drink was commonly truncated to glögg with the OED citing 1870 as the first written references.
In contemporary times, glögg consisting of heated red wine mixed with cinnamon, cloves, and some sweeter hard liquor, is still ubiquitous across Scandinavia. For a better understanding, we turned to our favorite Swede: Leo Lahti of the critically acclaimed Stranger in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Glögg is not just for office parties; it basically becomes the defacto Nordic drink for one month a year. “For [Swedish] people in general, glögg is a very big part of the holidays. The Christmas season basically starts with your first sip of it,” he explained. “You drink it at pretty much every social gathering for the entire month of December. Coffee consumption goes down and glögg is everywhere.”
Lahti also noted that libation’s popularity is inseparable from fika which is something like the Swedish answer to high tea. Said cultural institution normally involves taking a coffee & sweets break with family, friends, or colleagues. “ Fika is such a big part of everyday life here, so we’re always looking for an excuse to drink something warm and eat something sweet,” he joked.
What about those sweets? According to the Swede, glögg goes hand in hand with gingerbread of Lussekatter, a vaguely cat shaped, saffron flavored bun with raisins. In addition to the pastries, glögg gere is classically served together with blanched almonds and raisins. Drinkers add these accoutrements to their mugs to soak up some flavor.
The tradition is not limited to those of age. Non-alcoholic glögg for kids is also widespread. “Glögg marks a transition into adulthood. The first time you’re offered alcoholic glögg instead of the super sweet children’s variation is a special day in your life,” Lahti reminisced. “If I remember correctly, I actually think glögg was the first thing I got tipsy from!”
Although most Scandinavian grocers sell the beverage pre-made, we all know that such things are better made from scratch. Lahti said, “Most store bought brands have way too much sugar in them. So, I usually prefer a homemade one where you can add some extra booze for a nice kick.” Check out his recipe below.
Basic Swedish Glögg
- Mix Rum, Cognac, Port, and Raisins together. Let the batch sit and infuse for 24 hours.
- Add to a pot together with red wine, cinnamon and cloves.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue to simmer for 30 minutes.
- Strain and serve while hot!