Glögg and wine
A popular Christmas time drink throughout Finland is the deep ruby red mulled wine glögg, or glögi in Finnish.
Modern glögg has its roots in the ancient Swedish mulled wine punch called glödgat vin, which literally means "glow wine".
Picture on right: hot glögg with its traditional trimmings blanched almonds and raisins.
Similar to the central European glühwein, glow wine was made by seasoning red wine with sugar or honey and spices. A sugar cone moistened with cognac or some other strong liquor was placed on a grid set over a pot of hot spiced wine. The cone was set on fire and the glowing sugar slowly melted, dripping in the wine below, sweetening and flavouring it hence the name "glow wine".
Glögg is traditionally made by heating up sweetened red wine with spices like cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, Seville orange peel, lemon peel, ginger, etc. Part of the wine may be replaced with blackcurrant or red grape juice, and a dash of stronger spirit, like vodka, punsch, brandy, calvados or gin may be added to it. Glögg is served from tea glasses or mugs, mixed with a few blanched almonds and raisins.
Picture on left: a bottle of store-bought non-alcoholic glögg concentrate.
Non-alcoholic glögg is made with blackcurrant or red grape juice and spices. Nowadays also white glögg has become popular, made with white wine or cider, or fruit juices like apple, pear or white grape juice.
During Christmas time, Finnish stores are stocked with cartons and bottles of several brands of ready-made red and white glöggs or glögg concentrates.
At Christmas dinner, glögg can be served first as a welcome drink or last with the dessert, or instead of coffee and tea. During the meal, mineral water, beer or wine can be served, and some dessert wine, cognac or liqueur with the dessert and coffee.
Finding wines suitable to compliment the diverse, conflicting flavours of traditional Finnish Christmas dishes may be somewhat challenging, so recommendations from knowledgeable liquor/wine store staff, sommeliers, food writers, and the like, are often requested and appreciated.
Finnish Christmas beers, specially introduced by many breweries at this time, are dark and malty, sometimes sweetish, similar to the traditional Finnish homemade beers brewed at Christmas time. At its simplest, Finnish homemade beer, kotikalja, is made with rye malt, sugar, water and fresh yeast. Commercially made kotikalja can be found sold in Finnish stores, and being virtually alcohol-free, is suitable also for children to drink.
Ice-cold milk is also a popular drink among many Finns, even at Christmas dinner.
For many, vodka is an essential part of Finnish Christmas dinner, usually the meal starting with an ice-cold vodka or Finnish Koskenkorva schnaps, to accompany the cold fish and herring hors d'uvre.
Instead of a vodka shot, other strong, unsweetened and neutral-tasting liquors are often served, like akvavit or dry gin.
Picture on right: a shot of ice-cold vodka.
Although a shot of strong spirit may dull your palate and "anaesthetize" the taste buds, it is yet a part of the Finnish and Nordic culinary tradition. Formerly, having a shot of liquor at Christmas was believed to give blessing to the crop, and even the non-drinkers, children and domestic animals took part in this ceremony.
You will find recipes for some Christmas beverages and dishes here.
Read more about traditional Finnish Christmas here.