In 2007, when I was living in London, I decided to take a last minute trip with my flatmate at the time to visit the Christmas markets in Stockholm. Save for a couple of stalls set up in Bryant Park in Manhattan each holiday season, I’d never witnessed a real Christmas market. I had the most wonderfully romantic ideal built up in my mind: local Scandinavian crafts, cold winter air, falling snow, ice skating, perhaps even some festive Swedish dancing and, of course, mulled wine.
My first Christmas market experience did not disappoint. I got all those things, specifically a life-changing experience with mulled wine. Until that point, I’d really only heard of the concept, seeing it offered on the menu in a pub here or there, but never really thinking twice about it (and ordering a standard glass of dry red wine instead). What I knew: it was warm and spiced, and sounded like the perfect drink for a winter’s night spent roaming the markets.
Enter Glögg, the classic Swedish version of mulled wine. It was served in a tiny red paper cup, with a gold heart on it, topped off with raisins, almonds and a flat gingerbread cookie on the side. It was delicious – warm and soothing, with subtle hints of cinnamon and spice – the perfect remedy for the frigid evenings that I’d wished for, and subsequently wished I hadn’t. My souvenir from that trip was a pair of hand woven mittens that more than doubled the size of my hands and prohibited any functional movement of them whilst worn.
Yet, I also brought home the memory of that Scandinavian Christmas drink. To be honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever had glögg, or mulled wine in general, since that experience. Even the idea of recreating it now seems somewhat bittersweet without the cold European air. I can’t imagine the beverage having the same warming effect on the “blustery” high 40 degrees Farenheit nights in Napa.
That’s one of the most beautiful things about travel, the idea that something so small can become such a meaningful memory simply because of the time and place it is experienced in. Sure, I’ll have mulled wine again (especially now that I’ve spent twenty minutes googling recipes for it), but it will never be the same as that first taste, as holding that paper cup in my hand while I watched little Swedish children dancing to the live local music. Glögg will always be more than just a drink to me; it represents that single moment in time in my life.
Try to make your own memories with glögg with this recipe from About.com. I’d suggest adding cloves as recommended in the user reviews to give the drink an even more prominent spice kick.