Old-Fashioned Swedish Glögg Recipe
Growing up in a household that grew exponentially more proud of its Swedish roots every year around the holidays, wintertime in our house was always a festival of interesting eats — from the more familiar, like Swedish Meatballs, to the more bizarre, like Lutefisk (yuck!). While the smorgasborg was always the main attraction of a friend-packed New Years’ dinner, it never quite felt like the holidays until dad got out the dusty recipe for glögg and proceeded to almost light himself on fire caramelizing the sugar in a roaring pan blaze.
Glögg, or “yuleglögg” as it’s sometimes called in the holiday season, is a traditional Scandinavian drink said to have been invented by King Gustav I of Sweden sometime in the 1500s. In the 1600s it was renamed to “glödgad vin,” which means “glowing-hot wine,” which was later shortened to just “glögg.” The glowing-hot may have come from the wine itself, but it’s more likely a description of the feeling of your insides, cheeks and nose after a few swigs of the potent potion. It’s not as hard to pronounce as it looks: when said the right way, the name sounds a lot like the sound of a big gulp from a warm glass.
Originally made with wine, sugar, honey and spices, glögg’s popularity spread from Sweden to the European world, and by the 1800s there were as many recipes as regions that enjoyed the belly-warming drink — plus one or two variations for every savvy wine merchant. Generally the formula starts with a claret (a wine from Bordeaux, any red will do though), which is spiced and sweetened with local herbs and any available sugar, then finished with a stronger wine like port, vodka or Aquavit, a high-proof Scandinavian distilled spirit.
The recipe below is one that our family has been making for three generations, but it’s hardly set in stone — innovating new techniques in glögg-making has always been on the table. It’s part of what makes it such a versatile and joyous holiday tipple. Grab the fire extinguisher and let it warm you from the inside out after a hard session of shovelling, skiing or really anything this winter. [H]