Brush up on your svenska
, kids: we're roaming around Chicago for glogg, the traditional Swedish holiday drink that packs some serious hot-kick.
Part port wine, part brandy, part aquavit or vodka (or even grain alcohol!) and mixed with spices, fruits and nuts, it's served steaming warm, ready to kickstart your day or heat up your night.
Here's where to get it.
Simon's Tavern Ground Zero for glogg in Andersonville, proprietor Scott Martin carries on the tradition that began with original owner Simon Lundberg in 1934. Though the neon Viking helmet-clad herring beckons you in year-round, when the sign blazing "It's glogg Time" goes up, you know the holidays are near. Simon's goes through more glogg than anyone else in the neighborhood, made by Martin himself with mulled port wine, cloves, cinnamon, cardamon seed, orange peel, sugar and "a few secrets I won't divulge," he says, topped with sliced almonds and white raisins. At $4 a glass (served with a piece of pepparkakor, a Swedish gingersnap), it's a well-priced link to a long-standing tradition.
Andies (Andersonville) Kefti kebab, gyros plates, baba gahnoush, and...glogg? Believe it. Owner Andie Tamras explains, "We're in the heart of Andersonville. To sell something Swedish is a great opportunity to tell people, 'if you know about ouzo, why not know about glogg?'" At $4.75 it's a bit steeper than Simon's, but Tamras says they do it with "with love and tenderness and a lot of praying," so give it a shot. The experience of powering down some Moroccan Chicken followed with a glass of glögg after dinner is a multinational mindtrip. If you're fiending for an early start to the glögg season, keep in mind that Andie's starts serving glögg Nov. 1, three weeks before everyone else.
Tre Kronor Glogg isn't just an Andersonville thing. Albany Park's Scandinavian dining destination offers a glogg-sided smorgasbord experience. Make reservations for the Julbord, a winter feast of 10 kinds of herring, smoked and cured salmon, meatballs, oysters, hardtack and other Nordic specialties. Because Tre Kronor is in a dry precinct (who knew those still existed?) glogg is included complimentary with the price of dinner. (serving it gratis with the meal allows them to get around the no-booze rules). For drivers, it can be ordered as non-alcoholic as well; non-alcoholic wine and all the requisite spices give it the taste but not the kick. Nightly seatings for the $46 meal fill up fast, so call in advance.
Gallery Cabaret Don't want to make the long trip? It may not have the same storied tradition, but Gallery Cabaret in the Bucktown/Logan Square area is home to live tunes, poetry, comedy and special holiday shots of glogg. At $3.50, they're the cheapest we've found yet. Pair with the Cabaret's $4 Hot Butter Apple Rum and there's no chance your leave with any chill in your bones. And with its rotating "cornhole" beanbag toss nights and live comedy from WBEZ's Schadenfreude, you certainly won't leave bored.
DIY from the Swedish American Museum Center Up to mixing up your own batch? The Swedish American Museum Center (conveniently across from Simon's if you need to double check the taste with the pros) will sell you a pouch of all the spices you'll need to make this libation yourself on the stove at home. At only $5, it's a good way to start you excursion into mulled beverages. You'll also need:
1 bottle cheap red wine
1 bottle port
1 bottle brandy
slivered almonds and raisins
orange peel for garnish
Heat the port and the red together with your spices, fruit and nuts. Don't boil—that'll kill the alcohol. Separately, heat some brandy together with the sugar to make a slurry; if you feel like getting fancy, this is when you set it on fire to caramelize, but make sure you're sober while attempting this.
Mix it all together and let it mingle for a while. If you've got a crockpot, break it out, set it on low to keep it warm, and lay out the salmon and hardtack. Serve the glogg in Irish coffee mugs with a twist of orange peel, cheer "skol!" and imbibe.
No measurements? Of course not—that's the fun part. Make it to taste and you'll always have your own special version, and maybe your own new tradition.