Ah, glögg. As fun to say as it is to drink. It goes by many names—if you want to avoid scary umlauts, you can just call it mulled wine. The Germans call it glühwein, the Finnish glögi, and the Estonians hõõgvein. The word glögg is Swedish, a language that we generally avoid around here, but it’s easier for me to say than the Estonian name (any non-native Estonian speakers understand the difficulties caused by the letter õ). The basic formula is red wine heated (but never to boiling!) with sugar, cloves, cinnamon sticks, citrus peel, and other seasonings. It’s served hot, and one has the option of putting raisins and almond slices in their cup (they soak up the wine and become sooo delicious… I am definitely a fan of this option). There are a million variations in terms of what wine to use and what spices or booze to add. Bottled alcoholic versions or non-alcoholic mixes are available in Estonia.
Christmas Eve glögg on the stovetop
When the weather starts getting cold and dark here in Estonia, one thing that keeps my spirits up is the prospect that it will soon be glögg season. It’s served in just about every café and restaurant here, which is another thing I missed when back in the States. The spices and red wine smell like warmth and Christmas, the glass warms your hands, and the red wine makes you pleasantly relaxed.
My mother used to make glögg on Christmas Eve, while we waited for our holiday dinner to be ready. As a child, I seem to remember finding the alcohol fumes wafting up repulsive. Luckily for me, my mother made a non-alcoholic version from cranberry juice, which I loved. I can’t remember exactly when I transitioned over to the grown-up stuff. If somebody were to offer me a glass of the juice version now, I probably wouldn’t turn it down. But for really coping with the profound cold and darkness of an Estonian winter, the real stuff is in order.