Two defining moments convinced me that aquavit was a missing-link in my life. The first one was visiting Norway and feeling totally disconnected from such an important Norwegian spirit. The second experience was sitting in the scholarly, yet entertaining, aquavit workshop led by Christer Andre Olsen from Arcus Beverage at the Society of Wine Educators conference in Washington D.C. Since then, my home bar is never without a bottle.
What is it?
Despite the mixology craze in America, aquavit is relatively unknown and ignored. It is a Scandinavian distilled spirit produced in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany. What separates it from other spirits is the dominant flavor of caraway. Much like vodka, it is distilled from potatoes or grains. Aquavit also ranges in color, depending on the length of time in barrel, and the botanical flavors vary according to each recipe. Some are not aged at all and are totally clear.
Try substituting aquavit for gin in a classic Negroni, which is equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. You can also get far from your comfort zone and mix a cocktail I created called the Smoked Whale Testicle. Emily Kemme thinks it tastes like root beer with herbal notes. It is just as easy to make as a Negroni because it is equal measures of aquavit, Byrrh, and Cynar.
If you fancy more citrus in your cocktails, I suggest juicing some lemons and shaking up what I’ve named a Breck Into Song. This cocktail is a riff on an Aquavit Sour using Breckenridge Distillery’s aquavit.
1 ½ oz Breckenridge Aquavit
¼ oz Aperol
¾ oz lemon juice
3 dashes of Angostura bitters
mint sprig, spanked
Finding it locally
Breckenridge Distillery surprised me with their beautiful, clean, aromatic aquavit and its intoxicating eucalyptus, dried orange peel, caraway and licorice notes. The bottle shape is equally cool, and the Viking ship on the label brings it all back home.
If you’re looking for a reference to other US distilleries making aquavit or other brands available in the US, check out the list on AquavitWeek.com.
Note: More cocktail recipes and ideas can be found in our archives. Cheers!
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Stephanie Davis is a Certified Wine Educator (CWE), Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Certified Advanced Level III, a French Wine Scholar (FWS), and Level 2 Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. Follow Stephanie on Instagram @wineheroine and Twitter @thewineheroine. Tune in to Stephanie’s weekly podcast Wine Two Five.