A pot of a spiced beverage simmering on the stove, releasing its fragrant spices into the air. The flickering glow of candles, a crackling fireplace. It’s hard to imagine a more cozy setting in which to celebrate the holiday season. I created this recipe for Scandinavian gløgg (alcohol-free) in 2021, in honor of everyone who doesn’t drink.
Typically, gløgg is a spiced wine spiked with a spirit such as aquavit. I chose to stop drinking a while back, and life has become so much richer for it. Committing to the change is something I’m pretty proud of. It’s not easy to make that decision in a place and culture where alcohol is just about everywhere, but it was a life-changing one in all the best ways. With that in mind, it was important to me to create something delicious that was as good as the original, not simply a sorry substitute.
It’s possible to make Scandinavian gløgg alcohol-free by steeping spices into a juice such as cranberry, but my goal was to create a recipe with the complexity of the original. By combining several types of juices and adding black tea to mimic the tannins of the wine, the results are fantastic. Opt for juices with no sugar added, if possible, so you can sweeten to taste.
Scandinavian Gløgg (Alcohol-Free)
32 fl oz cranberry juice (no sugar added)
32 fl oz black cherry juice (no sugar added)
32 fl oz apple juice (no sugar added)
1/2 cup raisins
8 dried figs, quartered
3 cinnamon sticks
10 green cardamom pods
1 tablespoon whole cloves
2 star anise
2 (2-inch) strips of orange peel
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2-3 tablespoons loose black tea leaves
1/4 cup blanched almonds
Heat all three juices in a large pot with the raisins, figs, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, star anise, and strips of orange peel. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small pan, combine the water, sugar, and tea leaves and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and allow to steep while the gløgg simmers.
Strain out the tea leaves while you pour the sweetened water into the gløgg. Ladle the gløgg into mugs, ideally something clear and heatproof, adding to each some of the raisins, figs, and almonds. (Be sure not to accidentally pour the cloves into the mugs as you serve.) Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a slice of orange, if you’d like.
NOTE: The amount of sugar is a matter of taste, and depends on the juices you choose. I recommend searching for unsweetened juices so you can have control of how sweet you make the gløgg. Ultimately, the choice is yours, and I hope you make this recipe again and again, adjusting ingredients and making it your own.