Think the Vikings invented Gløgg?

Photo: TINE Mediebank Gløgg comes in many variations, but it’s always tasty.

Photo: TINE Mediebank
Gløgg comes in many variations, but it’s always tasty.

Shelby Gilje
Seattle, Wash.

Think again. There is evidence that spiced wine dates as far back as ancient Egypt, circa 3150 BC, when it was used for medicinal purposes and was considered to be a remedial elixir of the afterlife. Egyptian medicinal wine was laced with pine resin, figs, and herbs such as balm, coriander, mint, and sage, according to

Reports of wine being enhanced with herbs and spices during the Roman Empire have been documented in early writings of Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD). The Vikings weren’t around until the eighth to the 11th century.

Glögg, gløgg, and similar words are the terms used for mulled wine in the Nordic countries—sometimes misspelled as glog or glug. It is spelled gløgg in Norwegian and Danish, glögg in Swedish and Icelandic, and glögi in Finnish and Estonian, according to Wikipedia. If you’re in Germany or Austria, ask for Glühwein. In France, it is vin brulé, which is ignited with a long match. (Tip: do not imbibe until the flame is out.)

But hold those fireworks. All these versions share a history with mulled wine.

However you spell it, the hot beverage is popular from Halloween through Christmas, and beyond to New Year’s Eve and other cold winter days.

Gløgg usually contains fruit and nuts. Many recipes call for a red wine base, with the addition of port, sherry, vodka, or akevitt. But there are a variety of recipes that use white wine, or non-alcoholic fruit juices such as black currant, grape, or apple cider as a base.

Generally the main ingredients of alcoholic glögg are red wine, sugar, spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and orange. Stronger spirits such as vodka, ake­vitt, or brandy are optional. There’s no need to purchase high-end red wine for this liquid treat, as the spices, fruit, and nuts will overpower the wine to a degree. In fact, rumor has it that spiced or mulled wine was invented to cover up bad-tasting wine!

The main admonishment from devotees of gløgg: do not boil the mixture, because the alcohol will evaporate.

In Sweden, gingerbread and lussebullar (also called lussekatter), a type of sweet bun with saffron and raisins, are typically served. It is also traditionally served at Julbord, the Christmas buffet. In Denmark, gløgg pairings typically include æbleskiver sprinkled with powdered sugar and accompanied by strawberry marmalade. In Norway, gløgg is paired with rice pudding or riskrem.

There are many recipes; I’ve included three (see below). Whichever you choose, warm the glasses or cups you plan to use before pouring in hot gløgg.

Do provide some sweet cakes or cookies, small sandwiches, hors d’oeuvres, or other nibbles with the alcohol-infused gløgg. Do not overserve guests! Otherwise you may be calling a taxi for some.

Photo: Angela Huster / Wikimedia Commons Mulled wine steeping with oranges, cinnamon, and other spices.

Photo: Angela Huster / Wikimedia Commons
Mulled wine steeping with oranges, cinnamon, and other spices.

Classic Gløgg
This Gløgg recipe was given to a National Public Radio interviewer several years ago by Todd and Urd Berge Milbury. Urd is cultural and information officer at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

½ cup raisins
1 cup akevitt (or brandy or vodka)
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
4 whole cloves
6 whole cardamom seeds, crushed
peel of 1 orange, thinly shaved
1 small piece ginger, peeled and cut in half
2 cups burgundy or pinot noir wine
2 cups port wine
Blanched almonds

Soak raisins in akevitt (or brandy or vodka) for 30 minutes.

Put a large pot on the stove, over high heat. Add water and sugar to the pot, and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Lower the heat to medium and add cinnamon, cloves, cardamom seeds, orange peel, and ginger. Stir again with wooden spoon. Do not allow the mix to come to a boil from this point on.

Add the akevitt-raisin mixture, burgundy or pinot noir wine, and port wine.

Sweeten and spice to taste. Strain, garnish with raisins and slices of blanched almond, and serve hot off the stove.

Note: The drink can be made a day ahead and kept covered, on the stove, at room temperature. Reheat before serving.

Spiced Orange Gløgg
From Scandinavian Feasts, by Beatrice Ojakanga

2 cups orange juice
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. slightly crushed cardamom seeds
1 piece fresh, peeled ginger about 1
inch square, or 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 28-ounce bottle white table wine, Reisling, or Rhine, or 4 cups white grape juice

In a non-aluminum saucepan, combine the orange juice, brown sugar, cardamom, and ginger. Heat slowly to a boil. Add wine or grape juice.

Serves six to eight.

Cranberry Gløgg
From Scandinavian Feasts, by Beatrice Ojakanga

1 28-ounce bottle of white table wine, or 4 cups white grape juice
4 cups cranberry juice
8 whole cloves
1 piece fresh, peeled ginger about 1-inch
2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar

If desired, use cranberry liqueur in place of cranberry juice, omitting the sugar and substituting red wine for white wine.

The night before you plan to serve this gløgg, combine wine or grape juice, cranberry juice, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon sticks. Before serving, stir in sugar to taste and heat to 150F to 170F, just below simmering.

Serves ten.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 18, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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