Hot, spiced, and boosted with wine and spirits, gløgg is an elixir capable of warming the hardiest Viking. Throughout the month of December, this libation is a Scandinavian staple, served in cafés, doled out from street carts, and ladled into mugs at social gatherings. It’s the fortified response to the season’s cold and seemingly endless darkness, and it’s as ubiquitous as pickled herring. Most home cooks will make their own brew, either enabled by a mix or from scratch. This recipe is my version of gløgg from scratch. It avoids the cloying sweetness often found in pre-mixes, and it’s remarkably easy to prepare. You don’t have to splurge on a nice bottle of wine for this recipe, but be sure it’s something you wouldn’t mind drinking, and that it has body and heft–we’re talking Viking sustenance here, folks.
Serves 8 to 10 friends.
For the garnish:
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1/2 cup whole almonds (optional)
For the gløgg:
1 1/2 cups Port wine
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1/3 cup brown sugar
Zest of 2 untreated or organic oranges, shaved in strips with a vegetable peeler, white pith removed
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bottles full-bodied red wine
Fresh orange slices as garnish
Prepare the garnish:
1. Combine the raisins and Cointreau in a small bowl. Let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours.
2. Toast the almonds (if using) in a dry skillet on the stove. Remove from heat and coarsely chop in large pieces.
Prepare the gløgg:
1. Combine all of the ingredients except the 2 bottles of red wine in a large heavy pot with a lid. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to about 2 cups, 12 to 15 minutes.
2. Reduce the heat to low, add the red wine, and cover the pot. From this point on, do not let the gløgg come to a boil–or the alcohol will evaporate!
3. To serve, add a spoonful each of raisins and almonds (if using) to a heat-proof glass or mug. Strain the gløgg into the glass (a tea strainer works well for this). Garnish with fresh orange slices and/or a cinnamon stick and serve with a spoon for scooping up the raisins and almonds.