Glögg: A Holiday Godsend

glöggIt's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Every %@*&-ing where I go. The store windows, the hideous wreaths on the bumpers of SUVs, the Holiday sweaters, the music (please, God, make it stop). I'm already up to my turtleneck in Holiday Crazy and we're two weeks away from the big day.

It's a tough, depressing time of year for a lot of people. The days are short, the nights are cold, and the pressure of putting forth good cheer is enough to drive anyone slightly mad. Alright, it's enough to drive me mad. I promise not to speak for anyone else.

I should just count my blessings and remember all of those things I said a was grateful for over the last holiday.

One of the things for which I am currently grateful is the fact that I do not live in Sweden. It's a gorgeous country alright, with gorgeous people and whatnots, but really. If it's cold here, it's colder there. And the nights? Long. Really, depressingly long. I sometimes wonder how they get through the winter in one piece.

Apart from the medicinal use of sunlamps, one major way the Swedes cope with the winter blues is alcohol. And lots of it. Of course, this is how a lot of people cope with the Holiday season. It's a double-edged sword, really, (do I need to mention that alcohol is a depressant?) so you may want to proceed with caution. May.

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This winter, one of my several drinks of choice is a nod of solidarity with my half-frozen Swedish brothers and sisters-- glögg. It's festive without trying too hard, it's simple to make in large batches, it's warm, it's delicious, and, with the help of a little brandy, it really helps take the edge off the Holidays. And, of course, it's just plain fun to say. If you're not quite certain how to pronounce it, just sidle up to a Swede-- they're a friendly lot.

Glögg

Makes about 6 servings

One of my favorite things about glögg (apart from its remarkable warming powers) is the fact that the Swedes have included bar snacks right there in the drink. By adding almonds and raisins that (usually) sink to the bottom of the glass, you've got one more reason to say "bottoms up" or, if you really want to carry the Swedish thing a bit farther, "skål."

Ingredients:

1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine. Don't be foolish enough to use one of your best bottles. One that is merely drinkable will do.

1 cup brandy

12 while cloves

6 to 8 cardamom pods, lightly crushed

2 cinnamon sticks (you may break them into pieces, if you like)

1/2 cup sugar

4 to 6 strips of orange zest (which may be used later as garnish)

raisins and blanched almonds for garnish

Preparation:

1. Combine wine, brandy, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium head for about 15 minutes. Do not boil and do not over-simmer or else you will cause too much of the precious, medicinal alcohol to evaporate. Stir in sugar and orange zest.

2. Sprinkle raisins and almonds into the bottoms of however many glasses you're using.

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3. Strain glögg through a sieve, saving the orange zest for garnish, if using, pour into awaiting glasses, and serve hot.

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