While many cultures have a tradition of sipping warm, spiced wine to keep toasty through the cold winter months, Norwegians have a secret ingredient that sets their version of gløgg (pronounced gloh-gguh) apart: aquavit.
Aquavit (pronounced ahk-eh-whit) is a clear Scandinavian liquor made from potatoes (Norway) or grain (Sweden and Denmark) and flavored with caraway seeds. Caraway has for a long time been a common flavor in Scandinavia (the spice found in most rye breads) and was originally considered a medicine for indigestion. The signature spice gives aquavit an overarching savory character that goes well with hard-to-pair foods, namely traditional Nordic foods like pickled herring, smoked fish pinnekjøtt (stick meat) and pungent cheeses.
In snowy Norway, nothing evokes hygge-esque wintry feelings like a pot of steaming, aromatic gløgg brewing on the stove. Gløgg fills your house with rich, spicy aromas that are warm and welcoming, bringing the juletid (Christmas) feeling to any home throughout the colder months.
The traditional Scandinavian winter drink mixes wine with spices like fennel seeds, star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon to make for a brew that smells divine and tastes even better. The red-amber liquid tastes of honeyed sweetness followed by a spiced, alcohol-fueled kick.
After a long, frigid day out on the powdery cross-country ski slopes, the best way to usher in the evening is to snuggle up inside with a glass of hot gløgg, a burning fire, and good company. The best accompaniment is gingerbread with blue cheese and fig jam on the side. It complements the taste of gløgg just perfectly.
Don’t worry, we aren’t just going to tell you how good it tastes — we’re here to help you make your own glass full of wintry warmth.
The recipe comes in innumerable forms, but the wine is always the key ingredient. Technically both red and white wine can be used, but we usually choose red. Since mulling wine disguises a lot of the nuances of flavor, don’t pick a delicately layered wine. Instead, go for bigger, bolder, full-bodied red wines. Look for Italian reds or southern French.
This recipe serves about 8 glasses of gløgg.
1 bottle of red wine
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
6 star anise flakes
2 cinnamon sticks
1 2-inch piece of ginger, chopped in big chuncks
12 ounces white sugar
1 orange sliced
½ 750-ml bottle of aquavit (or substitute vodka or Cognac for a less Norwegian iteration)
3½ ounces raisins
3½ ounces sliced almonds
1. Carefully heat the red wine slowly (don’t let it reach a boil) in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sugar, cardamom, fennel seeds, star anise, and cinnamon to the pot and stir until the sugar dissolves.
2. Remove the pan from heat and let cool for about 2 hours.
3. Add the aquavit to the mix and again place over medium-high heat. Carefully heat the mixture until just before it reaches a boil.
4. Strain out the spices using a sieve.
5. Add slices of orange, raisins, and chopped almonds and let them soak in for about three minutes.
6. Serve by ladling the mixture into large glass cups with teaspoons for scooping up raisins and almonds.
Helpful hint: You can also cheat by buying pre-mixed bottles or pre-packaged spice mixes, but we recommend the slow roast.