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Hot, Spiced Holidays

Mon, 11/20/2023 - 12:45
The glogg sold at December markets in Sweden and Denmark isn’t just American-style mulled wine, it’s wine fortified with higher-octane alcohol and nibbles like almonds or raisins.

The holiday season, the chill in the air, and the early coming of darkness call for light, warmth, and tradition. A cup of hot mulled wine, filled with aromatics and spices, is just what we need to warm up from the inside out.

For centuries, people have infused wine and consumed it for celebrations and festivals. In Scandinavia, glogg (pronounced more or less like “glug” to rhyme with “jug”) has become a traditional seasonal drink, consumed from the beginning of Advent through Christmas. Don’t confuse glogg with other familiar types of wine that have been mulled with spices. Glogg is much more involved, and contains additional alcohol — such as brandy, bourbon, or vodka. It is also served with some goodies in the cup, like blanched almonds and raisins, which are meant to be eaten as part of the experience. It is not a drink for the faint of heart, but you will adore it from the first sip.

My Scandinavian mother made glogg every year, and even served it in her Main Street shop, Whimseys, every Saturday in December. Shoppers could get a small cup of homemade glogg and a gingerbread cookie, and linger in the store, admiring all the German glass ornaments and Swedish straw ornaments. She had a beautiful enameled, Norwegian coffee pot that she served it from, and I still have it. I remember her making the batch a day or so before serving it — nervously watching it on the stove, as she was so concerned about open flame and alcohol. In the recipe she gave me when I got married, she even noted to watch carefully for fire! Apparently purists used to set the pot on fire to make sure the sugar was melted.

 Glogg is just making its way to popularity here in the States, but was served at all of the Christmas markets I visited in Stockholm on a recent visit. I wandered the cobblestone streets with a red paper cup in my hand, sipping the warm and perfectly spiced wine, as I shopped for handmade woolen mittens, lace, and carved wooden candlestick holders. I felt like I was at home, bringing my childhood Christmas dreams to life. When we visited the traditional Christmas tables (the “julbord” buffets in splendidly decorated restaurants), glogg was also served — as an appetizer. It is meant to bring people together to chat and be social. But be careful because there is more booze in glogg than you realize.

The key to making any hot wine drink is threefold. First, you need a good basic wine; it doesn’t need to be super expensive, but make sure it is something you would like to drink on its own. Second, your spices should be fresh. Finally, the garnishes should add to the presentation and the taste. Although, traditionally, glogg is served with almonds and raisins, other goodies can be added to different recipes: cranberries, orange slices, star anise, and cinnamon sticks. Brandy-infused cherries or a sprig of rosemary can also add a festive touch and taste.

Both red wine and white wine can be used to make a gorgeous holiday drink, although red wine is most often used in Scandinavia, Germany, and elsewhere. These drinks are essentially a treat — a starter or the last drink of the evening. They are flavorful, and pack a punch, so when making a batch for company, count on perhaps one and a half servings per person. You can use a slow cooker to serve from, or keep it warm over a burner (stovetop or chaffing dish arrangement). Use caution with flame, however, as I said earlier. You can set out an arrangement of garnishes that will complement the recipe, and guests pick and choose to create a drink they will adore.

A holiday gathering is a time to celebrate, be with those we love, and get cozy around the fire. Any of the following recipes are sure to add to your party. Any leftovers should last in the fridge for a couple of days. Just reheat when you want to serve. It might be the perfect thing to sip on as you wrap presents and dream of snow. God Jul (Merry Christmas)!


Marlys’s Christmas Glogg


2 quarts dry red wine

2 quarts muscatel

1 pint sweet vermouth

1 cup raisins

2 cup whole blanched almonds

Peelings of an orange

12 whole cardamom pods, bruised in a mortar and pestle

10 whole cloves

1 stick cinnamon

1 1⁄2 cups aquavit

1 1⁄2 cups sugar

Use a 6 to 8 quart enameled or stainless pot. Mix the red, muscatel, vermouth, raisins, orange peel, sugar, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon in the pot, cover, and let simmer for 12 hours. Before serving, add aquavit and sugar and bring to a boil on high heat, stirring. Make sure it doesn’t catch fire. Stir in nuts and serve. God Jul!


Sugar and Spice

Glogg can be tailor-made to suit your guests’ tastes.
Here are a few flavors that can be added:



Dried orange slices

Fresh pomegranate

Star anise

Cardamom pods

Cinnamon sticks



Whole cloves

Dark brown sugar




Spiced Rum

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