By Neal MacDonald, Editor
The bottom line right at the top: Geijer Glogg is a remarkable and intense mélange of flavors. There is a tamarind sweetness mixed with a Yuletide explosion of spices. The proof is perfect at 40—neither too hot nor too weak. Mixing is more of an adventure… it is so intense that it needs more of a blank canvas than a lot of the modern mixologists will tolerate. In our experience, very basic clear spirits as the base with a little touch of something else is very nice. Mixed with lots of other flavored things, not so much. It’s best application is warmed and in a mug during snow under the moonlight. There, it is worth every penny and worth a drive to find. We recommend for those who are very particular about their kitchen, their ingredients, and want a highly desirable and conversation-setting dessert digestif. Huge recommendations for the chef as an ingredient. It loses just a touch with us because of a lack of versatility.
Now for the details.
Glögg (from now on we will ignore the umlaut with apologies to our Scandinavian friends) is attributed on the marketing website as similar to aquavit in that it is a distilled clear spirit infused with spices. That spirit can be anything—grain and grape (or beer and wine) being the most common to make a kind of proto-vodka or un-aged brandy (eau-de-vie) prior to spicing. One of the High Lords of Liquor Nerd-dom, Anthony Dias Blue, said this about glogg in his Complete Book of Spirits’ chapter on aquavit: “Scandinavians also consume aquavit in a heady spiced wine and fruit punch called glogg, which is served warm.” If this sounds like a Scandinavian version of British mulled wine, that’s about right. A casual Google search reveals a lot of similarities with NPR chiming in with a recipe calling for aquavit, burgundy/pinot noir, port wine, raisins, white sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom seeds, one orange (and one orange only, apparently—this was the one measurement specification in the whole of the recipe), one piece of ginger (except for that one), blanched almonds… then a variety of soaking, boiling steeping before finally drinking.
That sounds exhausting so no wonder someone tried to bottle it and sell it.
Yet this brings to mind a curious question: is this a ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktail in a bottle just like the (typically disgusting) margarita slush in a bag? The folks at Geijer Glogg don’t think so. They entered the spirit as a liqueur in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition of 2013. The federal Tax and Trade Bureau backed them up by classifying it (code 619) in the category for liqueurs and other flavored spirits in the “herbs and seeds” category.
Who are we to argue with the federal government? Especially when the NSA may come calling?
Geijer Glogg defines itself as a blending of infused water (a kind of tea) with cardamom, cloves, ginger, and others that are then mixed with a spirit down to 40 proof. To us, this appears to be a lower-proofed version of an infused spirit that is lightly sweetened. Perhaps this is not a liqueur in the classic sweetened sense but perhaps similar in style to the Italian amaro and German bitters liqueurs that are generally enjoying a (richly deserved) discovery in the modern market.
Settling the classification, then, how does one drink it? Glogg is hardly its own category and not a single one of our (many) cocktail books mention it as an ingredient. What follows are some suggestions from the producer himself (thank you Martin Geijer!) on how to serve compared against some drinks that we thought capable of giving the reader an impression of what they’re in for.
Neat and Warm
Warm to exactly 150 degrees Fahrenheit, serve.
Gotta love such an extraordinarily simple cocktail recipe that anyone can do at home. We did this by pouring into a mug and nuking in a 1.4 megawatt microwave for 17 seconds. (We do this with RumChata all the time and it’s delicious.) This is the classic way to drink Glogg if our various sources are to be believed. We compared it straight-up to Linie Aquavit, which we blended down with water and sweetened a bit with agave syrup.
The nose of the aquavit is all caraway and rye bread. Smooth and nice. The Geijer, in contrast, has a nose that’s a lot of Christmas potpourri in the sense of cloves and cinnamon. Some of our group thought it begged to paired with crème brulee or Banana’s Foster. Another party said “Warm, muffiny goodness.” The taste has a little apple and raisin… a little honey and tamarind. Very lightly sweetened. The warming intensifies the aroma… a real blast of yuletide.
We lied, we also tried it cold and compared it to iced Linie aquavit. Chilling pulls out the sweetness in the glogg. In fact, maybe twice as sweet. Hugely, thick viscous sweetness. Weird.
Overall, the culinary enthusiasts would probably like as both a cooking ingredient and an after-dinner digestif. “Way ups your dessert game!”
Compared to Regular Chai Tea Syrup and Vodka
Before we get too carried away … we like to see if we can pull off these specialty liqueurs at home. Why go out and by a bottle if you can do-it-yourself? In this case, we tried to short cut our own way to a weird, home-grown Yankee glogg. We used Chai Tea coffee syrup and water blended down to a 40 proof drink and compared it straight.
Using coffee syrups is a favorite flavoring trick of ours that is a good way to achieve swift, easy results. In the sake of reproducing glogg, one can achieve a similar initial intensity of flavor (no finish!) but it’s too sweet. Some of the profile is similar but it lacks the symphonic depth and complexity of the Geijer. Bottom line, the glogg cannot be easily and cheaply replicated at home, which is a good thing when marketing a $30 liqueur.
Compared to Flavored Tea and Vodka
We’re not done yet… why not try for something a little more on the herbal and spice side and less on the sweet? We used green tea and ginger flavored Argo Tea blending vodka (Smirnoff) down to 40 proof.
So, with this one can get kind of close. The Argo tea and vodka sweetened with a bit of agave is decent. It’s actually an excellent shot and perfectly acceptable as kind of a freestyle emergence of a cocktail. The Geijer is much more intensely flavored and absolutely, 100% cannot be taken as a shot. It’s too much; too intense. It’s not the same experience. This is not an easy, cheap way to replicate glogg. To sum, it’s the difference between drinking in your 20s versus your 30s.
On Ginger Beer and Ice (dash of lime)
1½ ounces Glogg, pour over ice, top with ginger beer, squeeze of lime, then throw the spent lime wedge in the drink.
If this sounds like a Moscow Mule cocktail with glogg instead of vodka, it is. Note: you must use ginger BEER and not ginger ale. Trust us. For our cocktail, we used Brundaberg Ginger Beer and an organic lime… for our comparison, we used garden variety Smirnoff vodka.
The Moscow Mule is a pure, elegant drink and vastly unappreciated in the world. The Geijer version is an incredibly potent—almost overpowering—melody. The blending of flavors between the ginger beer and glogg are astonishing and a whiplash of flavor. It needs to be iced back rather substantially. There is a faint soda-pop air about the drink but it’s designed for the beach, the sun, and a potable and popular punch at pretentious parties. We often talk about drinks being an invisible aid versus the topic of conversation… this drink demands to be the topic of conversation.
Or better, if your objective is to win at chess and contemplate Life, the Universe and Everything (RIP Douglas Adams), then it is Moscow Mule. If you’re a young woman who wants a brawny man to throw her over his shoulder and cross the world’s oceans in his yacht, why it’s the glogg.
¾ ounce of gin (juniper!), ¾ ounce of Campari (bitter!), ¾ ounce of sweet vermouth, shake or stir on ice, strain into a martini glass, top with a splash of soda water and a lemon twist. For the Glogg version—replace the sweet vermouth with glogg.
This is quite the classic cocktail and a big departure from the dessert- and adolescent-crazed corn-syrup concoctions so popular at chain restaurants these days. If you’re ready to put your sophisticate hat on, this is a very interesting cocktail.
We actually have never liked it. Prepared classically, we suppose it’s a taste that one can learn to love. Yet why? But preparing a classic Negroni with sweet vermouth and then swapping out the sweet vermouth with Geijer… well, the results were not good. The Negroni is a tough cocktail to begin with… but there’s a certain cult-like flavor that one can at least agree might be beguiling to the people who make their lives outside the bell curve. Geijer makes it worse. These flavors do not mix well together. Not sure who thought this was a good idea but to us the tamarind sweetness clashes wildly with the Campari and… it don’t work.
Sixth Avenue (from Manhattan Cocktail Classic recommended by Martin Geijer)
1oz aged rum, ½ ounce glogg, ½ ounce lime, 1/3 ounce amaro (we used Becherovka—sorry Italy), 1/3 once velvet falernum (we used more Becherovka… who has two different amaros laying around?), 2 dashes of angostura bitters. Shake on ice and pour over crushed ice (lot of ice). Garnish with a mint leaf (which we didn’t have).
This is a cocktail that few people—and not even we liquor nerds—can pull off at home, so definitely something you find in a restaurant or have to bastardize with home ingredients.
Well, we were able to make it. At least a version of it. It’s okay in a decent kind of way. One would assume that only elegance can be added to a drink that starts with crushed ice but the multitude of flavors are in a kind of pitched conflict against a theater of ice. The name suggests you’d be putting on the Ritz but rather you end up grabbing Ritz crackers to cleanse the palate. It’s not a terrible drink… just not enjoyable. We had to come back with a glass of warmed glogg on its own just to realign our gastronomic chi.
In the end, the thing that impressed us the most about Geijer Glogg is the unabashed complexity of the flavor... there's really nothing else like it that we've ever tried. As of this writing, Geijer is ranked as a Tier 3 spirit, which we define as a value purchase or something with a very unsual and exotic taste; "unusual and exotic" is exactly what comes with Geijer but it's an accessible, exciting kind of "unusual" and much more beguiling than candied, adolescent snack flavors that seem to litter the shelves. Not something that everyone will stock in their home bars but an exciting, seasonal spirit that we can highly recommend for cocktail enthusiasts and most spectacularly as sophisticated holiday punch.
[Disclosures: we received two bottles of Geijer Glogg to sample; everything else mentioned here we purchased ourselves.]