Glögg (Scandinavian Mulled Wine), Chicago style
When I lived in Chicago, walking up to the historically-Swedish Andersonville neighborhood for glögg was one of the few things that got us through the dark, cold winters. Scandinavian mulled wine—known as glögg in Swedish, gløgg in Danish and Norwegian: gløgg, and glögi in Finnish—is typically a Christmastime drink. In Chicago, you could typically get it from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. So yes, this recipe is out of season, but it will be ready when you need it!
I do not know very much about Scandinavian cuisine, so this is more of a Chicago recipe than anything else. I cannot speak to how traditional it is, only that it tastes right to me. I prefer to use a dry red wine as the base so that I can control the sweetness.
My mulled wine pulls out all the stops. You don't have to use everything in this recipe—it will still turn out well if not perfect—but a good variety of spices and Aquavit are a must! This recipe does not call for much sugar as a variety of the liqueurs and fruits are sweet. The fewer you use, the more sugar you may have to add for it to taste right. Adjust for sweetness toward the end of the cooking time.
This recipe makes four generous goblets of mulled wine and can easily be doubled for a crowd. I wouldn't cut it in half though, even a small party will want seconds! The more of the ingredients you use, the better it will be. This works best in a clay pot because of the way it retains heat, and because it will keep the wine warm for multiple servings, but you can use a regular metal pot too as long as you keep an eye on it.
One 750 ml bottle of light-bodied dry red wine. I used a $10 Côte du Rhône. My rule is if you wouldn't drink the wine on its own, it won't make a great mulled wine. But a decent low-to-mid-price bottle will do the trick.
3 ounces Aquavit
1.5 ounce Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, or substitute a dash of orange extract or orange bitters
0.5 ounce elderflower liqueur, such as St. Germain or St. Elder.
3/4 cup morello cherries in juice. You want a nice mix of berries and liquid, and it should be sweetened juice, not a thick syrup. They are available at Russian markets and sometimes Trader Joe's.
a dash of almond extract or 0.5 ounce amaretto
4 whole cloves
1 cassia cinnamon stick
6 green cardamom pods
2 black cardamom pods
8 allspice berries
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
2-3 slices fresh ginger
1/8 cup sultanas (yellow raisins)
~1/4 cup raw sugar, palm sugar, brown sugar, or jaggery (to taste). You can also use honey or white sugar, but they are sweeter so you may want less.
2-3 juniper berries (optional—the piney flavor is nice but not for everyone)
1/4 cup brandy (optional, if you like a boozier wine)
If using a clay pot, heat the pot over medium low for a few minutes, then pour in the bottle of wine. If using a metal pot, pour the wine in first, then bring to medium low heat. You can use a slow cooker on the low setting, but it will need a longer heating time. I prefer the clay pot so that I can taste it throughout the process, and it is faster.
When the wine starts to steam a bit and is warm to the touch, turn it to low. Be careful not to let it overheat, as you can cook out the alcohol, and it can even ignite.
Add all the ingredients besides the sugar. Cook over low heat for at least 30 minutes so the flavors meld. If at any point the wine starts to simmer, remove it from the heat until it cools a bit, then put it back.
The wine should be very aromatic at this point, and the black cardamoms and sultanas will be all puffed up. Taste the wine. Add the sugar and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, until it is fully dissolved. If it is still not sweet enough for your liking, add a bit more.
Turn off the heat. The fruit should be sitting at the bottom of the pot, whereas most of the spices will be floating. Use a slotted spoon to skim the whole spices out of the wine.
Stir in the brandy, if using. Let sit in the hot pot for another minute or two.
Use a ladle to pour the mixture into cups/goblets, making sure to get some cherries and sultanas in each cup. For the true Chicago experience, serve with a ginger cookie on the side.