Mulling mulled wine
In Italy they call it vin brulee (boiled wine). In Croatia it is kuhano vino (cooked wine), in France vin chaud (hot wine) and in Scandinavia it's just plain glogg, which does not translate into grog but to what English speakers call mulled wine.
By whatever name it's a hot drink made using red wine, fruit and spices and is traditionally consumed in the northern hemisphere at Christmas, which falls of course in the middle of winter – a winter that can bring with it snow to much of Europe.
This – the snow that has tried to freeze the monkey off my brass door-knocker over the past few days – is what got me thinking again this week of glogg, a drink I was introduced to in a snowy Norway more than 50 years ago.
There sugar, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, bitter orange and cloves (or a commercially prepared mix of these ingredients) are usually added to the wine, which is then heated to about 60 degrees Celsius (any higher and the alcohol will evaporate) and left to infuse.
It is then reheated and served, would you believe it, with rice pudding and almonds with a blob of butter on the top.
The recipe for the glogg, or mulled wine, and for the food to go with it does, however, vary depending on where you are in Norway, or elsewhere in Scandinavia or Europe.
In Bulgaria, for instance, honey and peppercorns and sometimes apples or citrus fruit are added to wine to make greyano vino ("heated wine"). Elsewhere raisins and almonds sometimes go into the mix.
And red wine or even grape wine is not always central to the recipe. White or sweet wines are sometimes used, and spirits have provided some variations of glogg (such as those on which I overdosed in my youth) with a fearsome and deserved reputation.
In some parts of Europe a sweet Belgian beer is even used instead of wine.
And the good news for the less adventurous is that you can also make an alcohol-free version of these warming winter tipples by using fruit or berry juices, or by boiling the alcohol off the wine, which seems to me to defeat the object of the exercise.
If you're not into rice pudding, by the way, you can always serve as an accompaniment to the glogg/mulled wine gingerbreads or sweet saffron and raisin buns, as they do in Sweden, or, as they do in Denmark, puff pancakes with strawberry marmalade.
Sounds pretty good to me, though for many the perfect match is simply more of the same.
Here are two vinous versions of the traditional hot toddy:
Ingredients (serves four to six)
- 2 bottles of reasonably gutsy red wine
- 150ml green ginger wine
- 150ml water
- 50g sugar
- 1 small orange
- 3 tsp cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 nutmeg
Method: Pour the wine, ginger wine and water into a large saucepan. Add the sugar and mix well.
Stud the orange with cloves and add to the wine with the cinnamon and nutmeg.
Heat gently for about 15 minutes without boiling.
Serve the hot mulled wine in heat-resistant glasses.
Ingredients (for this seriously alcoholic glogg, you will need, as well, a crowd to drink it)
- 2 bottles of cheap but robust red wine
- 1 bottle ruby port
- 1 bottle akvavit
- 85g sugar
- 4 cardamom pods
- 12 whole cloves
- 12 allspice berries
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 cup blanched, slivered almonds
- 1 cup raisins
Method: Combine the akvavit, wine and port with the sugar in a stainless-steel pot. Add the cardamom, cloves, allspice and cinnamon stick.
Cook over low heat until it begins to steam, stirring to dissolve the sugar, for about 10 minutes.
To serve, place a few almonds and raisins in individual mugs and pour in the hot glogg. And forget about the weather.
The Southland Times