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.