Have you ever heard of either Swedish or Scandinavian glogg? It’s one of the most famous traditional Scandinavian Christmas treats, up there with marzipan pigs, various rice puddings, and klenät (fried pastry).
In fact, one may argue that glogg is the most seminal out of all Scandinavian Christmas treats, as it covers the entire Nordic region from Iceland to Estonia. In contrast, sweet treats and staple dishes tend to vary significantly from country to country.
So let’s explore what glogg is, why it became so crucial to the Christmas celebrations across the region, and, most importantly, why you should consider adding a bottle or a pre-made extract (yes, a pre-made extract, more on that below) to your Christmas shopping list this year.
What is Glogg?
Glogg is a type of heavily spiced mulled wine or a mixture of wine and spirit. Swedish glogg can be made with either red or white wine, though red is more popular. Usually, a more tannin-heavy wine is used for the base, with lots of sugar to alleviate the bitterness that starts to come forward once the wine is heated and highlight the tannins.
Swedish glogg is one of the more heavily spiced mulled wine varieties, with spice blends including cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and bitter orange. The spice is widely available commercially packaged, either as a dry blend or as an extract (as we mentioned above). The extract is then mixed with wine to make a quick glogg that doesn’t take a lot of time simmering.
It has, however, become common to swap the wine for water or fruit juice to make the non-alcoholic version of the glogg.
Similar to German Gluhwein, Swedish glogg is a staple of Scandinavian Christmas markets and is widely available from the moment the vendors start setting up stalls for the season. While primarily considered a drink for the Christmas season, certain establishments tend to add it to the menu earlier and take it off long after the Christmas holidays are over. It helps that glogg doesn’t necessarily need to be served hot.
When Was Glogg Invented (and Who Invented it)?
We can’t be sure since history has no definitive records. Going by the documents where it (or similar drinks) are mentioned, we can discern that Swedes started drinking glogg somewhere around the late 16th or early 17th century. There’s apparently a record of King Gustav I of Sweden (1496 - 1560) calling glogg “their favorite drink.”
More likely than not, glogg came to Sweden from Germany, where another type of mulled wine drink, Gluhwein, had become a Christmas market staple at least a century and a half before (around the 1420s).
From Sweden, it spread to the rest of the Nordic countries. First to Scandinavia (which is why it’s called either Swedish glogg or Scandinavian glogg), then to Iceland and Finland, where it spread to Estonia (the latter refers to the drink by its Finnish name Glögi).
Why is Swedish Glogg Called Glogg?
The Swedish name for the drink, Glögg, comes from the verb “Glödga.” Glödga means “to heat something” and was initially referring to the process of heating the wine to make the drink. In 1609, the drink was first referred to as “Glödgat Vin,” i.e., “heated wine” in print.
As happens with many words, Glödg later mutated into Glögg and got stuck. Interestingly, the Danish name for the drink went through a similar process, going from Glødet Vin (den. “glowing wine”) to shortened Glødg to Gløgg, which is still used today.
So, is Glogg Just the Same as Mulled Wine?
Well, yes, but also no. Just like German lebkuchen is a type of gingerbread cookie, but not all gingerbread cookies are lebkuchen. Swedish glogg is a type of mulled wine, but not all mulled wine is glogg.
Swedish glogg recipes use specific spices (the spice mix is even available commercially packaged both in the form of a dry blend or liquid extract so that home Chefs can cut the prep time) and specific types of wine.
Swedish Glogg vs. German Gluhwein vs. French Vin Chaud: What’s the Difference?
German Gluhwein is likely the most famous version of mulled wine drinks. It’s so renowned, in fact, that Gluhwein is often used as an interchangeable term for mulled wine in non-German-speaking countries. The one other type of mulled wine drink that somewhat competes with it in popularity is likely French Vin Chaud, but often it, too, is referred to as Gluhwein outside its native France.
And then there’s Swedish Glogg, which has little fame outside the Nordic region, so it’s no surprise that most people simply assume glogg to be the Scandinavian name for Gluhwein and leave it at that.
In reality, all three drinks have distinct features that others don’t share. While the basis is the same, we have very different flavor combinations on the outlet. Let’s break the differences down so that you know what it is exactly you’re drinking the next time you order a glass of mulled wine:
Swedish Glogg can be made with both red and white wines, though red is more common. The essential thing about glogg is that tannins from the wine should be well emphasized (or imitated) in the drink.
To mitigate the bitterness and emphasize the tannins, usually, more sugar is added to the drink during the simmering process. The sugar content in white wine-based glogg tends to be higher than red wine-based ones, as white wine contains fewer tannins than red wine.
Scandinavian glogg spice blends include cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and bitter orange. Star anise, common in other mulled wine recipes, isn’t traditionally added to the wine while it’s simmering, but dry star anise is sometimes added to the glass before the glogg is poured. Often, glogg is fortified with more potent drinks like aquavit, vodka, brandy, or rum.
French Vin Chaud is traditionally made with red wine, usually something young, light, and fruity. Unlike glogg, Vin Chaud isn’t supposed to have a prominent tannin flavor, so most recipes emphasize skipping heavy and acidic wines.
Vin Chaud spice blend is typically simpler than other mulled wines and comes down to just cinnamon and cardamom, with cloves sometimes thrown in (they’re not mandatory). The primary flavor notes come from honey, which acts as the primary sweetener, and an ample amount of oranges it’s simmered with. Vin Chaud, on average, is supposed to be the least sweet out of the three.
German Gluhwein is highly likely the first mulled wine variety ever to have popped up and a seminal variety that influenced all the others. Still, you’ll find several crucial differences set both glogg and Vin Chaud apart from it.
First of all, Gluhwein is spiced differently, traditionally with oranges, star aniseed, cloves, and cinnamon being mandatory, vanilla being optional, and ginger and cardamom not used at all.
Second of all, it’s lower in sugar content, with either very little sugar used or not at all. Gluhwein can be made with red and white wines like glogg, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find the latter on sale. In fact, you’ll likely have an easier time finding fruit wine-based (typically cherry wine or blueberry wine) Gluhwein.
Like glogg, Gluhwein can also be fortified with a more potent spirit. If so, it’s called Gluhwein mit Schuss (with a shot), and the spirit in question is usually rum (though some recipes get more creative by adding amaretto or orange liqueur).
How Much Alcohol is There in Glogg? How Strong is It?
Here’s the interesting thing about Swedish glogg: even with wine as one of the main ingredients, it doesn’t have to be alcoholic!
Now classic glogg recipe does call for a red or white wine with at least 7% alcohol. So if you’re buying a cup at a Christmas market or have decided to make it yourself following the classic recipes, then the glogg will be alcoholic. And it will be relatively strong, too: not only does about 80 to 85% of alcohol content in wine survive mulling, but it’s also not rare for glogg recipes to call for other alcoholic beverages to fortify the drink, like aquavit, brandy, or rum.
But as the drink became more famous and the demand grew, more options became available. Nowadays, there are quite a few options for bottled non-alcoholic glogg, as well as liquid glogg pre-mixes that can be dissolved in water or fruit juice instead of wine to make a glogg-like drink.
When Should Glogg Be Drunk?
Glogg is traditionally a seasonal drink. It starts popping up on menus at the beginning of December and may very well last until the end of January, if not longer.
While glogg is considered to be a Christmas drink, most people drink it at Christmas markets and not at home. Though considering the sales of alcohol-free bottled glogg have been steadily rising over the last decade, we can assume that more and more people are serving glogg at Christmas tables as an alternative to wine.
How Long Will Glogg Last? Should Glogg Be Refrigerated?
Well, that depends if we’re talking about ready-made bottled glogg or the glogg that’s been freshly mulled.
Commercially bottled glogg has an impressively long shelf life: most brands last up to a year, and some may last even longer.
Freshly mulled glogg isn’t that sturdy. It’s best consumed the same day it was made, but if you have leftovers, it can last up to 5 days (but is best consumed within the first 3).
Commercially bottled glogg usually doesn’t require refrigeration and can be stored at room temperature even after the bottle has been opened. Most labels will, however, recommend keeping the bottle at a “cool and dark place,” so consider storing the glogg in the refrigerator anyways, if you have the space, since it’ll preserve the flavors better.
Freshly mulled glogg does require refrigeration. It should be stored in a tightly sealed bottle before being refrigerated. Mulled wine is just as vulnerable to oxidization as regular wine, and if improperly stored, it’ll quickly go sour.
Should Glogg Be Served Hot or Cold?
Interestingly, unlike most other mulled wine varieties (including Gluhwein and Vin Chaud), glogg can traditionally be served hot and cold. So if you get a bottle of ready-made glogg, you don’t necessarily need to warm it up.
On the other hand, being a traditional winter drink, it’s more common to have glogg served at least warm, especially at markets and eateries, when people try to stave off the cold.
So yes, there’s no incorrect way to serve Swedish glogg, not really. But serving it warmed up will just be more pleasant, considering the season.
For an extra traditional touch, garnish the bottom of the glogg glass with dry aniseed, some raisins, and sliced almonds before you pour it.
Explore Yummy Bazaar’s Holiday Assortment for More Traditional Christmas Treats:
Yummy Bazaar hosts one of the largest online selections of gourmet holiday treats, with a wide variety of items from across the globe. Explore the Italian section for a wide assortment of gourmet panettone or pandoro, go to the Spanish section for authentic Christmas turron nougat candy or check out the German collection for high-quality marzipan, far too often overlooked during the Christmas celebrations. Or maybe you’d like to go a little original with your choice of Christmas gingerbread cookies? You’ll find an assortment from all over the world, from German lebkuchen to Swedish Pepperkakkor to French Nonnettes. All it takes on your part is sparing a few minutes to stock the cart with all your favorites, and we’ll take it from there, ensuring the goodies get delivered to your doorstep ASAP.