God Jul!

God Jul!  For those of you who do not speak Swedish (like me – even though I’m Swedish-American), it means Merry Christmas.  Pertaining to the approach of Christmas, not “the holiday season” since it does not have anything to do with Thanksgiving or New Years, this drink is like drinking Christmas Spirit.  However, this is how I see it, or from my perspective growing up with one of many traditions.  We called it “grog” in pronunciation, even though it should have been pronounced “wassail.”  It was my grandmother’s recipe, and meant to be non-alcoholic – no wine, no brandy, and certainly no rum.  Yet rum made its way in, only after it was done brewing all day, and resting through the night to be ready to drink the next day.  Whether a Christmas party, or merely to drink a bit of happiness into your life, we’d put the wonderment into a big, coffee maker with a spigot to warm it back up, and a bottle of rum nearby for the adults.  As a boy I never could see any reason to change what was perfect.

What we made was wassail, a hot mulled cider (Old English wæs hæl, literally ‘be you healthy’ – an ancient southern English ritual intended to ensure a plentiful cider apple harvest for the next year.  The term wassail was meant for both drink and toasting).  Regardless, we didn’t call it that.  We called it grog.  When looking up various recipes for grog, or glögg in Swedish, I quickly found out several missing ingredients.

Glögg, pronounced somewhat like glooog (roughly translated: “glow”), is a sweet, high-octane, mulled wine.  According to the Wine & Spirits Museum in Stockholm, King Gustav I of Sweden was fond of a drink made from German wine, sugar, honey, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves. It was later named “glödgad vin” in 1609, which meant “glowing-hot wine.” The word glögg is a shortened form that first appeared in print in 1870.

There are several recipes I am fond of, all which include various fruits, either sweet red wine or port, or both, and all with fortifying spirits.  Here’s a Swedish glögg recipe:

2 bottles sweet red wine
2 cups water
1 1/2 oz dark rum (with this I prefer Gosling's)
1 1/2 oz brandy (doesn't need to be expensive with so many flavors)
1 1/2 oz port wine
10 dried prunes
4 pieces dried apricots
4 pieces dried apples
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dark raisins
2 oranges (washed and sliced)
rind of 1/3 of a lime (no pith - either peeled or grated)
1/2 cup dried cranberries 
1/4 cup pistachios (should be almonds, but allergic to)
2 Tbsp whole cloves
1 tsp cardamom pods
4 (3 inch) cinnamon sticks
1 cup brown sugar (light)

Bind up cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and lime rind in cheesecloth.  Bring all ingredients, except alcohol and wine, to near boil (do not boil) and simmer for at least one hour, preferably 3 hours.  Remove bound up spice packet.  Add remaining ingredients only minutes before serving, reheating to near boil (again, do not boil).  Serve in heatproof glass cups (so you can see inside – this Christmas gift comes with see-through wrappings), adding a small helping of fruit and nuts to each glass, and a teaspoon to eat by.  Garnish either with an orange peal in the drink, or an orange slice on the rim of the glass.

I know that sounds like a lot of ingredients.  But the idea is richness, deep thought-provoking richness, the kind your most precious memories from Christmas past will conjure.  Also, if you would prefer, I’ve heard of substituting Aquavit (or Akvavit) for the brandy, but not for this precise recipe  This is where I haven’t experimented enough to make this call – maybe if Aquavit is added, maybe the cardamom will seem too powerful.  Sorry for not knowing for sure.

Even though I’m talking about glögg, I’m writing this to show the grog recipe I grew up with, regardless if it’s really wassail.  It’s a simple recipe, easy to make, and so happy and bright with flavor.  You could even use it as an ingredient if making a mulled wine.  I am very proud of this drink, and so glad my parents shared this recipe with me.


Julglögg (Christmas Grog)
1 quart hot tea (black tea - just use teabags)
2 tsp whole cloves
1/4 cup stick cinnamon
1 gallon apple cider
1 quart orange juice
1 pint grapefruit juice (not ruby red)
1 cup cranberry juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup hot water

Make hot tea by steeping for 5 to 7 minutes.  Meanwhile, bring water to boil and dissolve sugar completely within to make a simple syrup.  Add cloves and cinnamon to tea, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add cider, orange juice, syrup, grapefruit juice, and cranberry juice.  Bring to boiling point, but do not boil.  Simmer for a few hours.  If you don’t have time, just cover and let it sit all day.  Either way, let it stand overnight to marry the flavors.  Serve hot (but do not boil).  If you’re in the mood, add a splash (or more) of amber rum.  Silver rums feel a little too rough, and spiced rums think they are in charge.  I first thought dark rums would be ideal, instead learning they kind of clash as well.  A list of rums that work:  Appleton, Matusalem, Mount Gay, El Dorado, Pusser’s, and Bacardi.  Due to how more mild it is to any other, Gosling’s is the only dark rum capable for this recipe.  Finally, garnish with a slice of orange with a number of whole cloves poked into the skin, thanks to my loving parents for sending my wife and I a box of delicious Florida oranges.

Merry Christmas to all who read this.  Astonished to see so many people from so many places visit this website, I hope I can be of any help, even if it just means a suggested recipe for an option of what to make with certain flavors.  Thank you one an all.  And for those who do not celebrate Christmas, I wish you a Happy New Year.  Be safe.

Apple Season

It’s Apple Season!  It’s Apple Season!  Ahhhh-Hoooo!!  First let me explain something, I like apples, but really don’t take to them on a regular basis, nor do I crave apple pie, or apple dumplings, or anything flavored for the sake of apples.  I don’t have anything against them, just like I don’t favor them.  My point is,  for the most part I rarely eat apples and any thing made with them pretty rarely…at least until autumn hits.  Autumn changes me, alters me, sends me into biological dynamo of teenaged hormone-driven rambunctiousness.  Not only is it football season, there simply is something in the air, an electrically charged mood, an altered perception, as if my blood has chemically imbalanced.  I understand this all sounds ridiculous.  I also understand it doesn’t last long.  Autumn feels like the briefest of seasons, most likely due to my having so much fun.  While this season surprises me upon its arrival as much as its departure, Apple Season particularly takes hold of me as a Venus Flytrap around its prey.  There is no escape.  It has already happened.  I can’t get enough apple, whatever form the fruit can provide, whether as juiced into a cider, baked into a pie, thickened as a butter, picked off a tree and eaten it out of my hand, or in this case – mixing a little of all for this cocktail.

I need to give credit where credit is due:  An extraordinary orchard and a cooking website have influenced my wife and I.  We have driven 3 hours down to a fantastic orchard for a number of years, and have been surprised not only by how popular it always seems to be, meaning busy, but how well they thrive as a business.  So many assortments of apple products, so many kinds of apples, and by what we’ve experienced – everything tastes delicious, and well worth the drive.  We’ll leave with a couple bags of apples, a couple gallons of cider, a few caramel-covered apples (with nuts), a couple jars of apple butter, sometimes an apple pie, sometimes  a cup each of apple slush, yet always open to suggestion or experimentation.  The orchard is called, The Apple Works, which is south of Trafalgar and north of Sweetwater Lake, but also found at http://www.apple-works.com.  If you go in the fall, make sure to head a bit farther south to Nashville and get their fried biscuits and apple butter (one of the things that makes the town almost as famous as the Nashville in Tennessee).  Last year, my wife found an outstanding recipe for pumpkin waffles at allrecipes.com.  After eating this profound breakfast, my thoughts immediately went to how I could use the cider syrup for cocktails, since I hear about all kinds of syrups used in that way.

My first thought of course turned to rum.  When I first made it, I used Appleton, thinking it well-suited for an incredibly sweet apple cider made sweeter as a syrup.  But this time I wanted to use a demerara rum, thinking of its richness distinctive to that of the Jamaican rum, not necessarily better, since both are unique perspectives in enjoying rum.  One of my favorite demerara rums is El Dorado 12 year (I have heard the 15 year is the best, but have yet to try it).  The next ingredient is Applejack, not Calvados.  I have nothing against the french brandy, yet believe it is too refined for a recipe with so many ingredients.  Applejack is sweeter, and a little friendlier for this.  I like Laird’s applejack, especially its American history.  If any of you are in the mood, check out the Interesting Facts link at www.lairdandcompany.com.

Now that the spirits are taken care of, the only thing to do now is load up on the apple flavor.  I considered apple butter as one of the ingredients, but not for this one, maybe later.  I figured muddling would thicken the drink enough after straining, where apple butter would only add more cloud to the bottom of the glass.  Using cider, fresh juice from the fruit, and an apple syrup, I felt enough characteristics of the apple were properly introduced.  I questioned whether to use lemon juice over lime, though in the end went with my fondness of combining rum and lime.  Tasting them is like listening to two best friends having a funny conversation.  You can’t help but smile.

I am also encouraged to infuse rum with apples to offer even more flavor, perhaps sooner than later.  For an extensive list of infused recipes, please check out boozedandinfused.com where you’ll learn how easy it is to make your own splendidly fresh tasting spirits and liqueurs.

The Apple Season Cocktail
1 1/2 oz El Dorado 12 year
1/2 oz Applejack (Laird's)
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz apple cider syrup**
1 oz apple cider
1/4 of an apple (cut into 6-8 pieces)
dash of Angostura bitters

Muddle apple with syrup and lime juice.  Double-strain into small, pre-chilled cocktail glass, garnish with floating apple slice.

Muddling is important here, crushing the apple into a puree, and getting every drop out of the fruit.  I have two muddlers, one with a flat bottom, and another with teeth.  A flat bottom muddler will do the best work here, and more thoroughly.  The toothed one will get a better start, but it’s the best finish we’re after.  Make sure you have a sure grip on your mixing glass due to all the effort and pressure forced down into the glass.  I’d get pretty sore with myself if all that fell on the floor, namely that precious cider syrup.

Also, double straining is important in this drink, that is if your do not want food in your drink.  I like unstrained cocktails in many cases, thinking it simply tastes better with the demolished ice and broken fruit from shaking, however not in every situation.  This cocktail needs a little refinement, an endeavor worth the trouble when you taste it.  And if you’re not familiar, double-straining is using an additional fine mesh strainer, that is straining the drink with a hawthorn strainer (or for those of you who prefer julep strainers), and pouring through a fine-meshed strainer.  It confirms no shards of ice, or sediment from the muddle apple.

**Apple cider syrup
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter

Mix sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon in a pan. Stir in cider and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until starting to boil; boil until it thickens. Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of butter until melted. Serve warm.  Again, you can find this recipe at the allrecipes.com. website.

My wife prefers less citrus juice, more syrup, and treasures Appleton rum over any other.  So her recipe is as follows:

1 1/2 oz Appleton Estate
1/2 Applejack
1/2 fresh lime juice
3/4 oz apple cider syrup
2 1/2 oz apple cider
1/4 of an apple (cut into 6-8 pieces)

I am probably going to drink this until Apple Season runs out of my system.  And then it’s Pumpkin Season…I can’t wait.

Wa’a kaulua


The weather’s getting warmer, reminding me to plan for hot weather.  A refreshing drink in the heat is an option everyone faces from time to time.  Usually pineapple juice comes to mind, and orange juice not far behind.  I started thinking of the Windjammer, which can have various recipes, some with apple juice, and some using another liqueur than Amaretto.  But I have seen more Amaretto/orange/pineapple combinations than others, and that’s what I thought of when first wanting a new drink.  I said to myself “That Windjammer recipe needs rum to it.”  This should not be a surprise to those who know me, like bacon, everything is better with rum, right?

I have mentioned some of my favorite rums, Mount Gay in particular, and demerara rums, and felt the above mixture would go well with these two added influences.  El Dorado is another one of my favorite rums, and mixes well with many different kinds of rums.  However, both not adding lime to rum, and the tartness side of pineapple not off-setting the otherwise purely sweet drink made me feel something else was needed.  I clenched my fists in wanting to add lime, and resolved not to cave, instead thinking of another rum, but not much – barely enough to spice the drink.  The French Caribbean influence of rum, or rhum, might offer a simplistic way to entice the taste buds to savor all the other ingredients, like adding salt to chocolate cake.

Wa'a kaulua
1 oz Mount Gay Eclipse
1 oz El Dorado 12 year
1/8 oz Rhum Barbancourt Blanc
1 oz Amaretto
2 oz orange juice
2 oz unsweetened pineapple juice

Shake with ice, strain over chilled old-fashioned glass.  Fill with ice (I like using large ice for slow melting), and drop in a maraschino cherry.