Produced exclusively in Scandinavia, aquavit (or akvavit) is a potent grain or potato-based spirit that is often compared to gin and anise-based alcohols. But it really shouldn’t be, as these comparisons never do the product any justice. Simply put, aquavit is in a league of its own.
Originally derived from the Latin term ’water of life’, aquavit is a much loved and celebrated beverage in Norway, Denmark and Sweden, just to name a few countries. An integral part of Scandinavian food and drink culture, the unique flavouring of the drink is achieved by adding fruit oils and spices, such as caraway, cumin, anise, fennel and orange peel, right after distillation. The oak cask aging process is then responsible for providing aquavit with a mellow taste, along with its golden hue.
Aquavit’s main flavour notes are driven by the dominant addition of caraway (an anise-like spice), which is essential in every recipe. Although the final product can differ between countries and varying recipes or brands, this single element never changes.
Though traditionally enjoyed as a warming and soothing spirit in the cold northern climate, there’s no reason this spirit can’t be enjoyed in a range of refreshing cocktails. The Scandinavians barely get a chance to enjoy summer as we do in the Southern Hemisphere, so we may as well use their great inventions and have a summer drink for them!
Use some gin, vodka or even pastis cocktails for inspiration and after a little experimentation, you’ll find that some of your personal favourite will embrace the aquavit match perfectly.
Try an aquavit and tonic, with a glass filled with ice and a couple sprigs of dill to garnish –dill will really bring out some of the aquavit’s finer qualities, like other herbs do for a gin and tonic. For something a little more fruit-driven, try mixing equal measures of aquavit and sloe gin in an ice-filled glass with a squeeze of lime and topped up with lemonade. Great for drinking under the sun, the complexities of the spirit are appropriately lightened up with the addition of citrus.
Or for something a little more classic, stir equal measures of aquavit, sweet vermouth and Campari with ice, to create a twist on the classic negroni. Finish by garnishing with an orange peel to lift the aquavit’s notes. Cheers to that.