Trying to Keep Christmas Merry: Grandma's "Manhattan" and the Wife's Family Glögg Recipe

I'm so tired of COVID ruining everything.

We've been far luckier than most – no cases (so far) in our household, and very few of the 800,000+ deaths in America came from within our network of friends and family. 

Still, it's a thing, especially with how easily and quickly omicron seems to be spreading.  So... we'll be doing far fewer of our normal Christmas things this year.  

A very small part of me was relieved to reduce all the running-around – this was the part that relished the way lockdown made life significantly less hectic.  But if I'm being really honest, I'm mostly just sad. 

I was looking forward to seeing my brother and his family in from KC, along with my grandparents, who spend the bulk of the year in Florida.  So not only will my nephew likely go, "Auntie who?" when he's old enough to form such words, not being with my grandparents – who have celebrated more Christmases than most humans ever see in life – for a second Christmas in a row... well.  It's tough to make up that kind of lost time.

But I'm writing this on the morning of Christmas Eve as my wife carries on with making cardamom bread, a yearly tradition she began with her (now dearly missed) mother. She's missing the kids, who are with their father for Christmas this year, but I can tell she's still in her element anyway by the way she sings along with the broadcast of King's College Choir's Lessons and Carols and attacks her kneading with gusto.  At one point, she smiled at me indulgently and put a small bowl of freshly ground cardamom under my nose, effectively sharing one of her favorite parts of her annual ritual with me – nobody else, just me. At that point, I realized there's still so much to be grateful for, especially time with just the two of us, and that is a very rare and precious thing indeed.

So with that, I'm going to share two things with y'all that are making me smile even though Christmas is cancelled, and then I'm going to shut this here computer down to celebrate what I can of it with my person. 

photo: the rookie barkeep

Grandma's Manhattan

When Grandma orders a cocktail, it's invariably a "V.O. Manhattan on the rocks with just the tiniest bit of sweet vermouth... and can you add a little bit of cherry juice?"  My cousin and I have long suspected that what she really wants is an Old Fashioned, but she probably doesn't know what an Old Fashioned is. We decided that, after 65+ years of ordering this drink, "if it ain't broke..."

For the maraschino cherries and juice, I'm talking about the kind bartenders use for shitty well cocktails at the VFW.  Do not use Luxardo cherries.

2.5 oz Seagram's V.O. Canadian Whiskey
.5 oz maraschino cherry juice (or more to taste)
dribble of sweet vermouth
bitters (optional)
2 maraschino cherries 

Pretty sure bartenders at the types of places Grandma frequents build this drink rather than stir it in a mixing glass and strain it over ice as is proper.

Photo: the rookie barkeep

The Wife's Family Glögg Recipe

Any drink can kill you, but rarely in so many different fashions or so spectacularly.  This recipe, authored by my father-in-law, is included here verbatim.

3 liters port wine (cheap – Gallo is OK)
13 ounces alcohol (Everclear)
6 1/2 ounces rum
1 heaping cup sugar
Fruit and Spice Mix
1 heaping cup raisins
15 cardamom seeds
3 sticks cinnamon
4 cloves
3 prunes
2 dry orange peels

Boil the fruit and spice ingredients (experimentation with ingredients is encouraged) in water to cover for 10 - 15 minutes.

Mix all alcoholic substances. (You may substitute 21 oz of brandy if you have already used up your alcohol making crack or if you live in a Neanderthal theocracy that prohibits sale of Everclear).

Add fruit and spice mixture to alcoholic substances.

Heat mixture (covered!) over high heat until it just begins to boil. Turn off heat (i.e., no open flames should be in the vicinity).

Put on asbestos or titanium glove. Remove cover (place cover on a non-flammable surface, for example, granite) and light the booze. Sprinkle sugar over inferno -- caution, it will flare up! Extinguish blaze by replacing cover. Total burning time should be about 20 seconds (longer if you want a wimp concoction).

Serve in small portions because it tastes terrible unless it's hot and because drinking a large portion fast will cause loss of consciousness.


Note: remember your high school chemistry class – if you'd like to enjoy the pleasantly spiced aroma of this highly fortified concoction, always waft, never inhale directly. Additionally, I would like to reiterate that you should never – EVER – open the lid while your gas burner is still on, or you will likely lose your eyebrows. 

intro glögg fire video courtesy of my bff sarah