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The practice of spicing and heating wine dates back as far as wine itself and probably originated as a way to recycle spoiled wine; heating and spicing hide the bad taste. In fourteenth century England, the drink was called ‘mulled’ wine, meaning muddled or mixed. This was not a poor man’s drink; spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg were worth their weight in gold. There are many incarnations of hot spiced wine drinks. Glühwein (pronounced glue-vine) is popular in German-speaking countries and the Alsace region of France. Wassail is associated with Yuletide in England and more recently with Christmas in the United States. In the Nordic countries, the drink is Glögg (pronounced glug).  Although made with wine, Glögg is often fortified with akvavit (pronounced aquavit). Akvavit, the water of life, is a very strong, clear, distilled Scandinavian spirit flavored with caraway seed.

 

Glögg

1 bottle (750 ml) Cabernet Sauvignon or other dry red wine
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup akvavit  (gin or vodka may be substituted) 
1/3 cup sugar
1 orange peel
1 8-inch cinnamon stick, broken
6 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods, opened
1/4 cup blanched whole almonds

 

Stir together wine, raisins, akvavit and sugar in a large pan. Tie orange peel, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom in a square of cheesecloth or use a tea infuser. Add spice bag to wine mixture. Heat mixture to simmering. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Do not boil. Remove and discard the spice bag. Stir in almonds just before serving. Enjoy the holidays.

 

Local oenophile David Dickson has been a wine educator for nearly 30 years. He welcomes questions and suggestions for this column at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Visit his website at winetimenewsletter.com to learn more about enjoying wine.