No.8: A Glögging Contest

They don’t call it Heroes Glögg for nothing.

And when Mrs. Hunter brings home 3.5 litres of port, brandy, and wine, you don’t ask questions. You roll up your sleeves and dig in.

A few times I’ve talked about my mother on Denver off the Wagon.  She’s a fantastic lady.  And she gets a lot of fantastic booze ideas every holiday, God bless her.  While I thank my father for my beer knowledge, a lot of my interest in cocktails comes from Mrs. Hunter.  Whether it’s following her whims on Old Fashioneds (this year), Negronis (last year), Champagne Cocktails (two years ago), or Tootsie Roll Martinis (many, many, many years ago), I’m right alongside her to learn.  But Glögg?  That was a curveball.

Julglögg, or simply Glögg (pronounced gloog), is pretty much a boozier mulled wine.  It combines red wine, brandy (or aquavit), and port, kick up the spices, and then you’re rocking.  Dating back around the 1520s, mulled wine was made possible with King Gustav I Vasa of Sweden, such a man who favored a hot drink made of German wine, sugar, honey, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves. It was later named “glödgad vin” (“glowing-hot wine”) in 1609 and later shorted to “glögg.”  Something about warm booze in the winter time that sounds absolutely grand.

The beautiful thing about mulled wine recipes is that they vary by the culture.  Traditional Swedish recipes call for aquavit (spirit distilled with caraway seeds), Finnish gluggi has vodka, Germans glühwein (glow wine) work with a white wine base, and the Irish glog typically works with (wait for it) Irish Whisky.  We Americans tend to use either bourbon or brandy–choose your poison how you like it.

And, boy, does it make your kitchen smell glorious.  It also makes the night as rosy as your cheeks.  That’s a plus in my book.

Swedish Glögg Recipe:

  • 1.5 liter bottle inexpensive dry red wine
  • 1.5 liter bottle inexpensive American port
  • 750 ml bottle inexpensive brandy or aquavit
  • 10 inches of cinnamon sticks
  • 1 Tablespoon cardamom seeds
  • 2 dozen whole cloves
  • 1 orange peel, whole and washed
  • 1/2 cup dark raisins
  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Garnish with the peel of another orange

Preparation:

First, plan on working this for about 90 minutes. Go ahead, pour yourself a generous dram of something in your whiskey shelf. And don’t be afraid to pour a couple sidecars of port, wine, and brandy while making this.

Drinking a whole bottle will make these scarves look real. Seriously.

A few notes:
Don’t worry about investing in expensive wine, port, or brandy.  Due to the spices, any complexity of the wine will be lost.  That said, don’t use anything cheap either (the sum will be no better than the parts).  Don’t use an aluminum or copper pot since the metals will be reflected in your final product.  Instead, go for a stainless steel or porcelain vessel.

Cardamom comes in three forms: pods, seeds, and powder. Don’t use powder. If you can only find the pods (they look like orange seeds), take about two dozen, crack the seed pods by placing them on the counter, lay a butter knife over the pod, and press down using the palm of your hand.  You can leave the seeds in the pod, as the flavors of the seeds can escape via this process.

Now to begin:

  1. Crack open that red wine and port, pour it into your stainless steel or porcelain kettle.  Rinse the bottles, as you might want them to bottle your finished glögg. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, orange peel, raisins, and almonds. Cover and simmer.
  2. Take a pan out, pour our the sugar and soak the sugar with half of the brandy. Turn on the stovetop and warm the sugar over a medium-low flame and stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves into a clear, golden syrup. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes until the tiny bubbles become large burbles.  You want the sugar to caramelize and to add a layer of flavor.
  3. After you’ve finished that process, add your sugar syrup to the simmer wine mix.  Cover the mixture over a low head for an hour.
  4. Quality control time.  Taste that sucker.  Add sugar or brandy, depending on your desire.  If you do, go easy using 1/4 cup at the most.
  5. Use a strainer to separate the spices, almonds, and raisins.  You can either serve the glögg as is or bottle it.
  6. If you choose to serve immediately, serve it in a mug and garnish it with a strip of fresh orange peel, twisted over the mug to release the oils. Drink while seated and prop those feet up by a fire.

Finished product notes:
It stores well, just keep in mind that the flavors will develop.  A month or two really is prime.  If you choose to age it for longer, just keep in mind there will be some sediment–just make sure it isn’t poured out into your glass.  Don’t shake the bottle.  Think beer and yeast snacks, but triple that.

And so, as we head into 2012, let’s raise a glass and offer a Viking’s toast:

Mein Skål,
Dein Skål,
Alle Vakkera Flikka Skål.

which means…

My health,
your health,
all beautiful ladies’ health.

Skål and Happy New Year!

[See all of The 12 Days of a Wagon Christmakwanakah]

About Jess Hunter


Jess is a lady and a scholar. If she's not mulling over the various names of famous mustaches and their respective bitter cocktails, she's nibbling on American Craft Singles and Cantillon. Connect with her by email at jesshunter@denveroffthewagon.com.