Scandinavian aquavit, literally “water of life,” has not made a tremendous impact on the rest of the world. Maybe it’s because of the unusual caraway-seed taste. In the case of glögg, however, aquavit’s unique flavor so perfectly complements the heated wine that it’s like drinking Christmas itself. The best thing about making glögg the old-fashioned way is the theater involved in preparing it, so be sure to invite your guests into the kitchen to watch the pyrotechnics. You’ll need a fine-mesh wire rack, which you should be able to find at any kitchenware store, to flame the glögg.
Serves 12 to 15
Two 750 ml bottles full-bodied dry red wine
20 cardamom seeds
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 ounces sugar cubes
One 750 ml bottle aquavit
1⁄2 cup raisins, for garnish
1⁄2 cup sliced almonds, for garnish
In a large pot, combine the wine, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and heat over a medium flame until steam rises from the surface and the spices are infused, about 7 minutes. Strain, then transfer about half the mixture to a large bowl.
Place a fine-mesh wire rack over the pot, and arrange the sugar cubes on top. Pour the aquavit over the cubes, making sure to soak them well. Standing back, use a long kitchen match to carefully ignite the sugar cubes, then slowly ladle the reserved wine over them until they have dissolved.
Serve in mugs, garnished with raisins and sliced almonds.