Many countries and regions have a special spirit that comes to reflect their heritage, culture and tastes. Greece has ouzo, Central and Eastern Europe have slivovitz, Newfoundland has screech, France has cognac, Armagnac and calvados, and Scandinavia has akvavit.
Akvavit, also known as aquavit, is a spirit made in Northern Europe. Like vodka, it is distilled from grain or potatoes, but flavored with spices and herbs, especially dill and caraway. Its alcohol content is generally around 40%, so it’s comparable to most liquors.
Like scotch, bourbon and pisco, Akvavit is a strong part of the identity of the nations that consume it. It’s a big part of season festivals and national holidays in Nordic counties, including Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Finland, including Christmas, Easter and weddings. It’s often accompanied by sandwiches and a smorgasbord, a buffet of various meats, salads and hor d’oeuvres.
Different regions have their own unique traditions about how to drink it—some prefer to chill it and sip it slowly, others drink it at room temperature. Some types are stored right in the freezer to keep it cool and ready for consuming, though not certain Norwegian varieties called Linje Aquavits, which are aged in oak casks and shipped to Australia and back. The process is supposed to induce maturation and flavor development, from the rocking of the boat and the high humidity.
In any case, akvavit often taken with a glass of beer, perhaps to mask the strong caraway flavors. You can also make cocktails with it. Because it has such a distinct flavor, the resulting mixes are usually quite complex and interesting.
Here’s a great way to experience akvavit for yourself. It’s definitely worth a taste.
Aquavit Cocktail: Thyme and Summer Berries Aquavit Sparkler
- 5 oz aquavit
- 1 oz thyme syrup (recipe below)
- Sparkling water or ginger ale
- Lots of ice
- Mix of summer berries
- Sprig of mint and thyme to garnish
- Make the thyme syrup: place 2 cups of water, 1 cup of sugar, and a handful of fresh thyme sprigs in a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15-20 min, until mix has thickened a bit. Set aside, strain, cool, and refrigerate so it’s super cold.
- In a short glass (old fashioned) place the aquavit, thyme syrup, a few berries, and ice, then stir for a few seconds. Top with sparkling water or ginger ale.
- Garnish with fresh mint and a thyme sprig. Makes 1
You can easily make this recipe into a crowd favorite by simply multiplying the quantities by the number of guests. Show off the beautiful execution of this recipe by pouring it into a jar or clear container before serving (because it looks awesome!)
Have you tried akvavit? What did you think? Share your secrets in the comments and on Twitter at @luvoinc