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Twice as Tasty

Norwegian-Style Gløgg

A hot spiced wine warms a holiday gathering, whether indoors or around a bonfire

By Julie Laing

I have a surprising number of childhood memories related to hot spiced wine. It features in my recollections of gatherings in snow-blanketed ski cabins and around tables of puzzles. My mom often had a kettle or slow cooker warming it for adult guests on Christmas Day. I’m told her variation was less potent than my grandfather’s port- and brandy-spiked recipe, which he simmered on their kitchen’s trash burner.

As an adult traveling in wintertime Europe, I gravitated toward various versions of the simmering brew: Mulled wine in England. Glühwein and similar renditions at holiday markets in Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland. Glogg in Norway and Sweden. As I explored towns on snowy days, at some point I cupped a mug of hot wine between my hands.

My favorite version comes from a Christmas spent with a cousin near Oslo. It fortifies the wine with vodka, which has two jobs before it hits the pot. Some of the vodka is infused with spices that are removed before heating, ensuing they don’t overpower the mixture if the pot sits for hours. The remaining vodka rehydrates raisins that are then spooned, along with almonds, into the bottom of each mug.

The first time I shared this recipe, I specified “cheap red wine” mostly based on my backpacker’s budget. Over a flavorful mulled wine at Columbia Fall’s White Raven Winery, owner and winemaker Dan Murphy and Wil Nieman, who had concocted the warmed brew, agreed that the notes of a favorite wine would be lost amid the extra alcohol, sugar and spices. Murphy instead suggested heating a hearty wine that had become oxidized from sitting open too long—and drinking a glass of a great vintage while you’re prepping the gløgg ingredients.

Norwegian-Style Gløgg

Serves 6-8

2 4-inch cinnamon sticks, crushed

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, crushed

5 whole cloves

1 allspice berry, crushed

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Zest from 1/2 lemon and/or orange

1 2-inch piece of gingerroot, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup raisins

3/4 cup vodka

1 750-mL bottle red wine

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla sugar (optional)

1/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds

In a small glass jar, combine the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, allspice and nutmeg; stir in the zest and ginger slices. In a separate jar, place the raisins and pour some of the vodka over them, until just covered. Pour the remaining vodka into the spice jar, swirling the jar as needed to cover the spices. Put a lid on each jar and let sit at room temperature overnight.

Strain the vodka from each jar into a large pot, reserving the raisins but composting the spices. Mix in the wine and sugars. Heat to about 170ºF, until steaming but not boiling. Stir and taste, adjusting the sweetness as needed. To serve, put a few vodka-plumped raisins and some almonds into each mug and then ladle in the wine.

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