The History of Glogg: Custom-making your tradition

Glogg, with the double dot diacritic over the o, is a traditional Scandinavian drink enjoyed during Christmas time.  Glogg is better known to most by it’s pronunciation, glurg, and was introduced to me by my husband’s Swedish father several years back.  This drink served hot, consists mainly of red wine, brandy, and port infused with spices, raisins, and almonds.

The history of glogg dates back to the 1500s when a spiced wine called ‘Hippocras’ was sold by merchants.  Yes you guessed it, named for Hippocrates, this wine was thought to have healing influences over muscle injuries and it’s no wonder that it’s hot-natured treatment gives a new meaning to hydrotherapy.  King Gustav I of Sweden renamed the German version of mulled wine with spices to “glodgad vin” in the early 1600’s.  By the 1800’s “glogg” became the shortened version and it means “to glow.”  This glowing physical description is attributed to the sugar that is mixed in the glogg (and what your face does after just one potent drink!!)

There are many of variations of mulled wine (wine infused with spices) depending on where you get the recipe from.  The Germans call their version gluhwein; the French enjoy theirs as vin chaud, and the Italians call their mulled wine vin brule.  Glogg, the name shared by Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland share the same taste for wine, sugar, and spices and call their mulled wine glogg, but variations can differ with the different types of liquors that are added.  Swedish influence (of which is most interesting for me)  dictates that aquavit vodka be used instead of brandy, which adds a caraway flavor (the spice found in most rye breads).  This traditional vodka can be found at no other than IKEA, your one-stop Swedish shop, of course!  If you cannot find aquavit on their website, BevMo carries it too.  Absolut vodka is a great substitute, and coincidentally Swedish too.  Other liquors that can be used to your glogg concoction are Danish schnapps, whiskey, cognac, dark rum, or whiskey.

Don’t feel that you have to have the spirits; Glogg can certainly be a non-alcoholic tradition as well.  Here is a fantastic non-alcoholic glogg to try: Cranberry Glogg.  Another recipe version substitutes the alcohol for orange juice or water and the wine with concord grape juice: Easy Swedish Glogg.

The method is glogg is quite simple; however, extra time can be allotted to soaking the spices in the alcohol before adding the wine and sugar.  Some recipes call for boiling the alcohol and spices and then soaking in the refrigerator over night.  You can even get wacky with the flavor of sugar you use or go with honey.  Remember, tradition depends on you.  After which ever soaking method you chose then you dissolve your sugary substance of your liking and then strain out the spices.

Spices to make a tasty glogg include anise, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, and vanilla.  Use a couple of these spices or all of them but I must absolutely insist that you use cardamom; all glogg makers know that this spice is the secret ingredient.  Garnishes you can add after you strain out all of the spices can be simply what you have on hand such as dried figs, raisins, orange peel, prunes or ginger.  Blanched almonds can offer the final touch to your glogg and now it’s time you sit back and enjoy.  If you are wise you will make extra glogg to bottle for another special time or to give away as a gift.

A tradition starts with an idea or passion that reflects the attitudes that you have and want to carry on.  Christmas is a time to recreate those passions that are dear to you and to start new customs.  This holiday season I am incorporating glogg into our family’s Christmas tradition and my hope is that we can enjoy it for many years to come.


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