What the Heck Is Glögg?

This traditional Icelandic spiced wine is perfect for warming bones and hearts on chilly nights, and it’s made right here in the Hudson Valley.

After a damp, bone-chilling day on the fjords, do you often need something to warm weary travelers by the hearth? If you’re anything like us, that answer is a resounding ‘yes.’

Made just north in Rhinebeck, HETTA is a modern take on an Icelandic tradition dating back to the 18th Century. Like German glühwein and other mulled wines, the basic conceit of glögg is simple: Start with a red wine, spice it, then heat for a delicious, soul-restoring treat.

HETTA brand glögg starts with a port and is brandy-finished, giving it an already sweet and fruity bouquet. It is then infused with fruits like orange peel and raisins, and spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and a few small, secret tweaks of flavor. Unlike other varieties of mulled wine (especially in the English-speaking world), HETTA’s glögg has no sugar added to the process, resulting in fewer calories — and fewer hangovers!

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That said, this is still a sweet, fruity, and fortified wine; the alcohol content clocks in at 21.9% ABV or just about 44 proof. (As a point of reference, that’s nearly twice alcohol as an average glass of Bordeaux.) Serving suggestions are to heat HETTA in a large saucepan until just simmering (not boiling!) and serve in a small vessel of perhaps 2-3oz. with enough of a bowl to concentrate the vapors and aromatic notes to really give you a good sense of the glögg’s nose as you’re sipping it. (Even an espresso cup or a cordial glass will do in a pinch.)

We also took HETTA up on their more modern suggestion of simply enjoying a glass of glögg over ice, with a garnish of orange and cinnamon sticks. (Almonds and raisins are apparently excellent choices as well.) In this way the drink is reminiscent of sangria and other summery punches, which truly makes it an all-year option you’ll happily stock in your liquor cabinet. Those same sweeter, fruity elements also lend the drink well to cocktails and even cooking. (Tell us this isn’t a fantastic base for a red wine reduction.)

“Hetta,” however, is Swedish for “to heat,” so in the coming chilly months we have little doubt as to how we’ll be serving glögg to our guests. Shelf-stable like more common wines, you’ll have no trouble polishing off in June a bottle of HETTA you started in November, though frankly we’re not sure our bottle will last that long.

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