Thursday, December 28, 2006
Glögg: Warming Wintertime Drink From Scandinavia
By ROGER M. GRACE
It was a cold and rainy December night when my wife and I entered one of our favorite restaurants, Gustaf Anders in Costa Mesa, which offered superb Swedish cuisine. We didn’t have reservations that night, and no tables were available. Nonetheless, one of the owners, William Gustaf Magnuson—from whose moniker the “Gustaf” was plucked and placed in the name of the establishment—graciously ordered place settings for us at the bar. He treated us each to a mug of a warm, fruit-flavored, spiced red wine.
It was glögg.
Though I’m not a wine-drinker, I really liked glögg. And though I’m half-Norwegian—and the beverage is served in Norway (its name spelled there with the Norwegian “ø” rather than the Swedish “ö”)—I had never encountered glögg...or gløgg…or anything like it.
I don’t know just when that introduction to glögg occurred, but it was a few years before Gustaf Anders closed in February, 2004, after Magnuson and co-owner Ulf Anders Strandberg decided to retire.
My wife and I have since encountered bracing, warming glögg at the annual Swedish Christmas fair at the Hollywood Palladium.
The recipe originally called for aquavit, a Scandinavian spirit, with varying spellings, distilled from potatoes and flavored with caraway seeds and herbs. A Prohibition-era column in the Helena (Mont.) Independent, appearing May 5, 1935, said of glögg:
“It is served in the wintertime, particularly at Christmas, and consists chiefly of akavit, sugar, spices, etc. It is not obtainable in this country.”
While aquavit is now available (the best being the Norwegian brand, Linie, which has traveled below the Equator and back by ship, assuring mellowness), glögg is no longer commonly made with it.
A recipe for glögg appeared on Christmas day, 1951, in Star Publications community newspapers in Chicago. The ingredients for a batch of glögg were a bottle of brandy, two bottles of claret, two bottles of port wine, 25 cloves, 20 cardamon seeds, a pound of blanched almonds, a pound of seedless raisins, two ounces of cinnamon sticks, a pound of lump sugar, and two ounces of dried orange peel. Here are the directions:
“Place dried orange peel, cardamon seeds, cinnamon sticks and cloves in a cheese bag and boil slowly in wine for 15 minutes. Add almonds and raisins and boil an additional 15 minutes. Remove kettle from stove and cover with wire grill upon which is placed lump sugar. Hold a lighted match near sugar. Brandy will flame up. When sugar is melted remove grill and kettle. Remove bag of spices. Serve hot with a few almonds and raisins in each cup.”
Here’s a simpler recipe—seemingly too simple, omitting the essential spices—from the Long Beach Press Telegram’s edition of Jan. 8, 1953:
“Into a casserole put 2 ounces aromatic bitters. Add ¾ cup granulated sugar, 1 pint claret, 1 pint sherry, ½ pint brandy. Place over fire until piping hot. Put 1 large raisin and 1 unsalted almond in an old-fashioned glass and fill glass ½ full. Serves 15.”
An Associated Press article appearing in newspapers on Dec. 23, 1954, emanating from Stockholm, listed the main ingredients in glögg as “brandy spiced with burnt sugar, muscat raisins, cloves, cinnamon, cardamon, figs and almonds.”
But the drink has come to be associated more with wine than other forms of alcohol. An Associated Press “special feature” distributed in December, 1995, referred to glögg as “a mulled [spiced, warm] wine spiced with cinnamon or nutmeg and sprinkled with raisins and slivered almonds.”
It is probable that at events like the Swedish Christmas fair, brandy is omitted.
A Glögg concentrate, to which red wine and/or aquavit, vodka, or other alcoholic beverages may be added, is available at stores, such as Olson’s Delicatessan on Pico Boulevard, west of Fairfax (featured in a Dec. 24 article in the L.A. Times). The instructions on the label of the product, imported from Sweden, are to add water and alcohol and to heat, without boiling.
Glögg can be simulated by warming a fruit-enhanced, sweetened, kosher wine—Mogen David blackberry wine would be a good choice—and adding individual spices, such as cinnamon and powdered orange peel…or shaking in a spurt of Aspen Mulling Spices, sold in small cardboard cartons. Ingredients in the Aspen product are sugar, dextrose, extratives of cinnamon, clove, annato, lemon, and orange, along with nutmeg and caramel color.