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Finnish Other Fortified Wine

In the heart of Finland, where winters are long, and the snow blankets the landscape in a serene white, there's nothing quite as heartwarming or soul-stirring as a cup of mulled wine. Known locally as "glögi," this beverage is more than just a drink; it's a cherished tradition that ushers in the festive season, bringing friends and families together around a steaming pot of spiced, sweetened wine.

Cultural Significance

Glögi holds a special place in Finnish culture. As autumn fades and the days grow shorter, markets start selling this spiced wine, signalling the beginning of the holiday season. It's a staple at Christmas markets, cafes, and Finnish homes, often served with raisins and almonds added to the cup. Beyond its delightful taste, glögi is synonymous with warmth, comfort, and communal joy during the darkest, coldest months.

A Medley of Flavors

Finnish mulled wine is characterised by its rich blend of spices and sometimes a touch of spirited fortification. The base is usually red wine, although white wine or blackcurrant wine are also used. To this, a melody of spices is added: cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, and bitter orange peel are common. The concoction is gently heated, never boiled, to infuse the flavours. Sugar, honey, or other sweeteners are added for a touch of sweetness.

Non-Alcoholic Variations

There's also a non-alcoholic version of glögi, made from berry juices or blackcurrant juice, appealing to children and adults alike. This variant follows a similar preparation method, warming the juice with the same traditional spices and sweeteners. It ensures that the spirit of the tradition is accessible to everyone, regardless of age or alcohol preference.

The Addition of Spirits

For an extra layer of warmth, some Finns fortify their glögi with additional spirits. Vodka, brandy, or rum might be added to the mix, creating a drink with a bit more kick, ideal for bracing against the Finnish cold. This spirited version is typically offered to adults at gatherings and is a popular choice for holiday toasts.

Serving Traditions

Serving glögi is an experience in itself. It's typically presented in beautiful, heat-proof glass mugs, allowing one to see its rich colour. The drink is often accompanied by a spoon to fish out the almonds and raisins that settle at the bottom. These tasty morsels are considered a treat and integral to the full glögi experience. The drink is usually served with gingerbread cookies or Finnish Christmas pastries, making for a delightful afternoon treat or a perfect close to a wintry day.

Community and Celebration

The tradition of glögi is deeply communal. During the holiday season, it's common for Finnish people to host glögi gatherings, inviting friends and neighbours to share a warm cup. These events are often potluck-style, with guests bringing along festive foods. It's a tradition that fosters a sense of community, sharing, and togetherness during a season known for both its harshness and beauty.

A Toast to Health

Interestingly, Finns often toast to one's health when sharing glögi. The spices used are not just for flavour; they've been long believed to have various health benefits. Cinnamon is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, cloves for their antiseptic qualities, and ginger for its immune-boosting effects. While it's primarily a festive drink, this aspect adds a comforting notion that it's a tonic for the body and soul.

Modern Takes and Commercial Offerings

Today, glögi has found its way to the shelves of supermarkets in ready-to-heat bottles, both in alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. However, many Finns still prefer to make their own, adhering to family recipes passed down through generations. In recent years, there's been a trend towards experimenting with new flavours, such as adding different fruits or using exotic spices, giving a modern twist to this classic drink.Glögi, with its warmth, rich flavour, and cultural significance, remains a beloved feature of Finnish winters. It's more than a beverage; it's a symbol of warmth, community, and the enduring spirit of the Finns in the face of the harsh northern climate. Whether sipping it surrounded by family in a cosy home or sharing it with friends under the twinkling lights of a Christmas market, glögi is a tradition that continues to warm hearts and spirits.

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