Get Into The Holiday Spirit With Scandinavian Glogg

Dec 22, 2011
Originally published on December 22, 2011 9:01 pm

In snowy Norway, nothing evokes Christmastime like a pot of glogg brewing on the stove. The traditional Scandinavian winter drink mixes wine and port with spices like clove, cardamom and cinnamon to make for a brew that smells divine and tastes even better.

Urd Milbury, cultural affairs officer from the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C., teaches NPR's Lynn Neary how to make the holiday treat.

Recipe: A Simple Glogg


Aquavit (or brandy or vodka)
Burgundy or pinot noir wine
Port wine
White sugar
Cinnamon sticks
Cardamom seeds
One orange
One piece of ginger
Blanched almonds

Step 1: Soak 1/2 cup of raisins in one cup of aquavit (a Norwegian spirit made with potatoes); Brandy or vodka can be used instead. Soak for 30 minutes before Step 2.

Step 2: Put a large pot on the stove, over high heat. Add one cup of water and 1/2 cup sugar to the pot, and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Step 3: Lower the heat to medium and add your spices - two sticks of cinnamon (each broken in half); four whole cloves; six whole cardamom seeds, crushed by hand; a thinly shaved orange peel; and one small piece of ginger, peeled and cut in half. Stir again with wooden spoon. Do not allow the mix to come to a boil from this point on.

Step 4: Add the aquavit-raisin mixture, two cups of burgundy or pinot noir wine and two cups of port wine.

Step 5: Sweeten and spice to taste.

Step 6: 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. Just reheat before serving.

Recipe courtesy of Todd and Urd Milbury.

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One of the most atmospheric places to spend Christmas is the snowy northern edge of Scandinavia: the country of Norway, where at this time of year, it's dark most of the day.

URD MILBURY: Really, this is the time of the year when people spend a lot of time indoors.

NEARY: That's Urd Milbury, cultural affairs officer at the Norwegian Embassy here in Washington, D.C.

MILBURY: We have a lot of hockey, warming foods and drinks. Norwegians love candlelight, live candlelight. You will see that everywhere, always in people's homes, live candles to help bring some warmth and some coziness into that long, dark season.

NEARY: And says Milbury, if you're having guests over the holidays, in Norway, it's traditional to welcome them into your home with a cup of the mulled wine drink, glogg.

MILBURY: Glogg comes from (foreign language spoken), which means glowing or warming, so really, glogg means having a warming effect and it's a great drink for the long, cold winters. You come in from the outside and you're all cold and bundled up and then you get glogg and you have this hot drink with spices and immediately you're going to feel warm inside and out and start glowing.

NEARY: So tell me exactly how it's made. Tell me what the ingredients are and how you put it all together.

MILBURY: The main ingredients in glogg is red wine and that needs to be a burgundy or a pinot noir and port. I'd say port is essential to get the deep flavor that you need from it, so you have wine, port, sugar and spices. And you can really play with spices, but the traditional spices to add is cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and orange rind.

NEARY: From her home in suburban Washington, Milbury taught us how to make this holiday treat.

MILBURY: Today, we're going to make a basic glogg and we start out with a pot on the stove. You can put it on high and add about half a pint of water, half a cup of sugar. Use a wooden spoon and stir until the sugar is dissolved. After the sugar has dissolved, you can turn the heat down to medium and add your spices and other ingredients, and at that point, you will never bring the mixture back to a boil because bringing it to a boil means you will cook out the alcohol of the wine and your liquor and you don't want to do that.


MILBURY: It's important to note that you do not need to buy high end wine or port to go in the mixture. It will be just as good if you just buy low end stuff because it's really the spices. It's all about the spices. They will overpower anything that's in the liquor, so you don't need to buy very expensive ingredients.

NEARY: Milbury continues stirring the mixture of wine and spices, and toward the end, she adds raisins soaked in Aquavit, a potato-based liquor.


MILBURY: Now, after you stir, the mixture will have a very deep, dark, ruby, burgundy color. Always taste. Taste well before your guests come.


MILBURY: Oh, this is actually really nice.

NEARY: Not only does it taste good, Milbury says, it also has a wonderful and evocative fragrance.

MILBURY: It smells like Christmas.


NEARY: And what is that smell for you?

MILBURY: It's a very rich, very deep and rich, flavorful and warm smell and that is also part of the benefit of making this drink is it makes your whole house smell like Christmas. It smells wonderful. The moment your guests come into your house, they're going to be excited about what's coming.

NEARY: Well, thank you so much for inviting us into your home and telling us how to make glogg and have a wonderful holiday.

MILBURY: Oh, you're welcome. It's my pleasure. (Foreign language spoken).

NEARY: What was that again?

MILBURY: (Foreign language spoken).

NEARY: And what does that mean, exactly?

MILBURY: That means merry Christmas.

NEARY: Merry Christmas to you, too. Thank you.

MILBURY: Bye-bye.

NEARY: Oh, and Urd Milbury does have one warning. Glogg goes down easily, so be careful not to drink too much. And if you want to find out how to make her holiday glogg, visit our website, Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.