To me, the scent of Christmas is fir needles, saffron and spiced wine. The Swedish version of mulled wine is a little sweeter and more highly spiced than the British version, but equally yummy. It is served in small cups or glasses as an aperitif, or après ski, with chopped almonds and raisins to taste. Originally, the drink was made by steeping a sugar cone in brandy, setting fire to the brandy and letting the burning spirit and melting sugar drip into a container of spiced wine. These days, you buy it in bottles in the off-license and warm it on the stove. Making it yourself isn’t difficult but very satisfying.
Glögg was one of the first alcoholic drinks I learned to like. It often doesn’t have a strong wine taste but is instead richly sweet and spicy. Adding raisins to the cup makes the drink sweeter and adds a rich honeyed tone to the flavour. Almonds don’t add flavour as much as crunch, but crunch has a pleasure all its own.
Making glögg is a two-step process: first make the spiced syrup, then mix it with wine or juice to make glögg. The syrup keeps well in the fridge for a week or two (or as long as it doesn’t grow mould, basically). Add a teaspoon to the bottom of a champagne glass for a festive tipple, or add some to a classic Martini for another seasonal treat. (Reduce some right down and pour over ice cream: once you’ve captured the flavours, there’s no end to what you can do with the syrup.)
The original recipe contains two ingredients that I can’t find in the UK: dried chunks of ginger and dried peel of bitter orange. I’ve replaced them with fresh ginger and normal orange peel. It works just as well. (If you can find Seville oranges, they’re the perfect kind.) Occasionally, I make up packets of sugar and spice and give them as gifts with a recipe. For these I need to dry the ginger and orange peel in the over (a couple of hours at a low heat, around 100°C does the trick). I also add a little more peel and ginger since it loses some of its punch in the drying process.
Glögg Syrup and Glögg
This makes enough syrup for two bottles of wine depending on how strong you want the flavour. 0.5 litre per bottle of wine (0.75 l) is what my recipe book suggests and this recipe makes just under a litre of syrup. Unless you have a very sweet tooth, it should be enough for two bottles of wine. The syrup works equally well with white wine, grape juice, cherry juice, apple juice and cider although red wine is the traditional mixer.
- Skin and pith from ¼ orange, scrubbed clean.
- 20 cl sugar
- 4 sticks of cinnamon
- 25 cloves
- 18 pods of green cardamom
- 10 grams of fresh ginger
- Put all the ingredients in a pot.
- Pour in a litre of water.
- Cover with a lid.
- Bring to the boil and then turn down to a light simmer.
- Leave to simmer for 30 minutes.
- Taste. If you want it a little stronger, leave the spices in while it cools. If it is just right, take them out now.
- 1 bottle of red wine. Use something good, I like a dry Shiraz, for example. (If you chose something rough, add extra sugar.)
- 0.5 l glögg syrup.
- Pour the wine into a pot and heat gently.
- Add syrup to taste.
- Let the glögg heat up, but not to the point of boiling. If you want a more alcoholic version, add 10 cl of brandy or vodka.
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A tip: dried ginger can be found by the kilo in places like Maqbools. Haven’t been able to find dried sevilla/pomerans yet unfortunately :-(.
Fellow Swede (who’ll be making glögg in the next few days).
Thank you for the tip! I’m due a visit to Maqbool’s to stock up on lemon pickle so will keep an eye out for ginger too. My local supermarket sells Seville oranges so I’m planning to make a batch of pomerans – it makes the kitchen smell divine and keeps well as long as it’s dried properly.
Which supermarket is that? Tattie Shaws (my local greengrocer) said they weren’t expecting any sevilla oranges until mid december at the earliest.
I’m hoping to get some from Brew Store at South Clerk Street, which stocks dried bitter orange peel (and Vört!) for beer making, but they’re out at the moment.
Fresh seville oranges will indeed not be in until January
The ultimate taste (and smell) of Christmas. I love mulled wine, have a great memeory of drinking it while watching some waltzing waters in Liseberg Amusement Park, Gothenburg – first time I’d had it with ginger biscuits too.
That sounds like a lovely memory! It’s nice with ginger biscuits, isn’t it? All warm and comforting.