hands holding mugs of glogg and cozy socks by a fire

Ella – December 4, 2018

While searching the web for some good warm winter drink recipes, I came across an interesting observation: “Gløgg is liquid hygge.” It’s true! Coziness (the approximate translation of the Danish word “hygge”) abounds this time of year, from plushy sweaters to cinnamon-spiced candles to slipper socks roasting by the fire.

And gløgg. The word comes from the word glödg, which means to heat or glow, but most of us know it best as mulled wine. And what would the holiday season be without the warm beverage that practically purrs Scandinavia? While Sweden, Norway and Denmark all have their own spin on gløgg, my usual tack is to heat up some cheap red wine and sprinkle in a few cloves.

But you can get as fancy as you want, tossing in oranges, raisins, brandy, rum, port, cinnamon sticks, honey, cranberries, almonds, even cardamom and anise. You may, however, want to spare the expense of high-priced wine or liquor because gløgg mixes everything together, and pricey libations are meant to be consumed singularly.

Hviids Vinstue, an 18th century pub in Copenhagen, is said to have the best gløgg in Copenhagen. Some 8,000 liters of it are sold during the winter season, mostly to locals and the occasional tourist. Uneven stone floors, dim lighting and sepia-toned pictures on the walls add to the “hyper-hygge” vibe. I haven’t been there myself, but I sure hope to someday. Until then, The Cabin at Old Irving in Chicago, with ties to Scandinavia, is a worthy substitute.

A warmly lit bar and bar stools.

The Cabin at Old Irving in Chicago is a cozy, rustic pub with a great selection of drinks and ties to Scandinavia.

Why is a warm drink in the winter so satisfying? Beyond the obvious benefits of warming up a chilled nose and hands and clearing a stuffy head, warm beverages are empirically proven to make us feel better and (get this) also see the best in other people. It’s been said that everyone looks better after midnight and a few drinks, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

An experiment conducted in Boulder, CO, showed that subjects holding hot drinks perceived others to be friendlier than those holding cold ones. (Who thinks of these experiments, anyway?) The science behind this is that the part of the brain responsible for judgment about others and processing warmth is the same. The researchers concluded that “The effect may have to do with positive associations from early prenatal warmth and its associated nourishment.” It’s a womb thing!

At the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, Professor Ron Eccles found that hot drinks are more immediately effective than cold beverages at providing relief from coughing, sneezing, sore throat, chills, runny nose and fatigue. It’s not just the vapors; it’s because hot liquids enhance taste, and pleasant taste releases morphine-like compounds in the brain that calm cough reflexes and dull the perception of pain.

Beyond the nurturing vapors of a hot drink, warm beverages enhance taste and dull the perception of pain.

I don’t suppose a blog about “liquid hygge” would be complete without an old Danish recipe. I admit, I’ve never made it, but years ago my grandmother jotted down the famous gløgg recipe her grandmother Anna Mikkelsen, a founder of The Danish Home, used to make. I still have it – a thin, weathered piece of paper that bears the blocky handwriting of my beloved Mormor.

I’m sharing it here and am now sufficiently motivated to make it and bring it to Lillejuleaften, The Danish Home’s annual “little Christmas Eve” celebration.

Skål! May all who drink it feel great – and look great to others!

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 5 strips of lemon peel
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 5 inch of ginger
  • 1 cup port wine
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

  1. Put the water together with the spices in a pot and let it boil for a minute.
  2. Let the water/spice solution stand for at least 10 minutes.
  3. After taking out the spices combine the water solution with red wine, raisins and almonds and warm up (without letting it boil – boiling evaporates the alcohol).
  4. Add sugar to taste (it should be sweet but not too much).
  5. When the gløgg is almost boiling, take it off the heat and add port wine. Serve right away.