What is akvavit?
Akvavit refers to the flavored spirit produced in Scandinavia. The drink is highly popular in the region and has been produced there since the 15th century. When you visit the place, it is highly unlikely that your visit would be complete without you being served the drink.
The drink has a rather distinct flavor to it due to the spices and herbs that are present in it. The main spice in the drink is caraway. The drink also contains around 40% alcohol, and a minimum of 37.5% alcohol needs to be present in it for it to be called akvavit. The term akvavit literally means water of life.
Origination of the drink
The drink is considered to be an integral part of the drinking culture in Scandinavia. It is often served during festive gatherings, which include Christmas dinners as well as weddings. The drink is served in different manners in different places. For instance, in Sweden, Denmark, and Germany, it is cooled down and served in small shot glasses, which is considered to be a tradition. In areas like Finland and Sweden, the drink is consumed from a shot glass usually in crayfish parties which are conducted in late August. In Norway, the drink is first matured in oak casks and is then served at room temperature in either shot glasses or tulip shaped ones. It is often said that the drink complements beer well and thus, it is common to take a sip of beer before akvavit.
How is it made?
Akvavit, quite similar to vodka, is distilled from two main ingredients: either grains or potatoes. After the process of distillation, the drink is flavored using herbs, spices or fruit oil for the purpose. The flavors which are commonly used include caraway, cardamom, cumin, fennel, orange peel and lemon. Grains of paradise and dill are also used for the purpose.
Recipes and flavors employed by different brands tend to differ. However, it has been seen that caraway is the dominant flavor. Akvavit tends to have a yellowish hue which can vary from clear to light brown. This depends on the time that the drink has been aged in the oak casks and the amount of colorant that has been used in its manufacture. A darker color is an indication of higher age. Clear akvavit is often referred to as taffel.
Popular beliefs associated with the drink
It is believed that the drink has quite a few health benefits to offer. It is said that the drink enables feasible digestion of rich food items, which is why it is customary to have the drink on festivities in many regions which have the likelihood of a heavy meal.
The drink forms an integral part of the Norwegian Christmas meals including in combination with food items such as roasted rib of pork or rib of lamb. This is because it is said that the spices and alcohol present in the drink would assist in digesting the meal enriched with fat.
The style and mannerisms of having the akvavit tend to differ in different countries, all of which consider their style to be ideal.
Akvavit outside the Nordic areas
You are unlikely to be able to buy akvavit in countries outside of the Nordic areas. However, you can purchase the drink from the places where there is a large community of Nordics residing. Northern Germany is an area where the drink is available in abundance with quite a few brands available including the likes of Flensburg and Keller Sprotte.
Some areas of North East England also offer the drink. In Canada, akvavit is produced by the Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery and Island Spirits Distillery. Small distilleries produce akvavit in some areas of the United States.
Akvavit in different regions
Let us take a look at how the drink is made and served in different areas.
In Denmark, the drink is considered to be a national spirit, which is why quite a few verities of the drink are available here. Aalborg Akvavit is an example. Other types include Hoker Snaps, Harald Jensen and Aalborg Jubilaeums among others. The drinks tend to vary in color, ranging from clear to light brown. Some are also available in bright red color. Some akvavit is aged in barrels, while others are flavored with oak and berry extracts. Most of the types make use of dill, coriander, and caraway as the main spices.
The tradition is to ensure that you do not sip a shot of akvavit while you are in Denmark. You should gulp down the whole thing. However, before you do so, the tradition is to make a toast to your companions. The tradition maintains that all the people present should raise their glasses together and make eye content with the rest of the people before drinking it all. Once you have drunk the akvavit, you are supposed to make eye contact with everyone present at the table again before you set your glass on the table. It is common to serve each shot of akvavit with a glass of beer.
The drink is usually enjoyed at lunches and the food featured includes the likes of open-face sandwiches and herring,
The Swedish akvavit is found to be quite similar in style and range of color to the akvavit of Denmark. However, the Swedish akvavit maintains a forward fennel, anise and citrus flavor because of it. Since the akvavit is flavored with ingredients that originate from specific regions, the labels on the drinks indicate the name of the place from where the ingredients originated. Popular Swedish brands include Skane, O.P. Anderson, Brannvin Special and Gammal Norrlands Akvavit.
The tradition of Sweden is to burst into a song before gulping down the shot of akvavit. They tend to continue singing during, before and after each round of shots with the enthusiasm witnessing a rise after every round. An annual competition prompts the people to write new songs for the occasion. The drink is served chilled in small, stemmed glasses and you are supposed to drink it in a single gulp.
The people of Sweden tend to have the drink around usually during holiday dinners or for special occasions. The traditional meals with which the drink is taken includes pickled herring, potatoes with fresh dill and ripe cheese as well as shellfish.
The Norwegian akvavit has a rather distinguished touch to it. The aging drink in oak sherry barrels are shipped abroad and most of these are Norwegian akvavit. This spirit tends to differ quite a bit from Swedish or Danish akvavit. The hue color ranges from clear to dark caramel, and the drink is flavored with different herbs which include star anise, guinea pepper, cumin and citrus peel.
It is tradition to first drink some beer and then sip akvavit with dinner. The beer manages to ensure that the akvavit does not come off as too strong and thus, you manage to truly appreciate the flavors of the spirit.
As many as 28 different types of akvavit are available. These include the likes of Lysholm Linie Aquavit and Bergen among others. Each type of akvavit is made keeping a traditional dish in mind. There was one type which was created to pair with sheep’s head. The akvavit created tends to constitute quite a bit of herb and spices which, as mentioned previously, aid in the process of digestion. The high content of alcohol also plays a role in breaking down the food.
Some ways to enjoy the drink
As we mentioned before, you can have the drink in different ways. If you manage to buy akvavit outside of the Nordic countries, you would not be expected to abide by any traditions. However, you can ensure that you manage to get enhanced experience from the spirit and to make this certain, we are going to provide you with some ways via which you can enjoy the drink and get the full effect.
The recipe we are now going to provide you with is meant for preparing one drink. You can enjoy it by using it as an aperitif or having the option of pairing it with herring along with other fish dishes as you prefer.
To make the drink, you would require an ounce of akvavit, an ounce of apple liquor, a dash of lime juice and some sprite to taste. All you would then need to do is fill a glass with ice and add the ingredients to it. You would not even need to stir it. The drink would be ready and you can use it to get the full flavor.
This recipe would also provide you with a single glass of the drink. You can pair it up with light pork dishes or have it with grill tuna steaks as well. This depends on your preference.
The ingredients that you would require to make the drink include one and a half ounce of thyme-infused akvavit, an ounce of sweet red Italian vermouth, an ounce of fresh lime juice, 2 dashes of angostura bitters, an ounce of Schweppes ginger ale and a spring of fresh thyme.
Once you have all the ingredients in place, you need to fill a mixing glass with two thirds full of ice and then process to add the akvavit, vermouth, lime juice, bitters and ginger ale. You then need to shake it and strain it into a chilled cocktail glass. Lastly, you should garnish it with a sprig of fresh thyme. To infuse the akvavit, you need to add a handful of fresh thyme sprigs to a full bottle of akvavit and leave it at room temperature for a period of three days.
You can use this recipe to pair the drink with salmon sashimi or other salmon dishes. We are going to explain how you can prepare a single glass of the drink.
To make the drink, you should first assemble all the ingredients in place. You will need one and a half ounce of akvavit, an ounce of shochu rice wine distillate, one and a half ounce of apple juice, a half ounce of lime juice and a dash of Peychaud’s Bitters. You would also require some thick apple slices. To prepare the drink, you would need to fill the mixing glass with two-thirds of ice and then proceed to add akvavit, shochu, apple juice, lime juice and bitters to it. You should then shake the mixture and strain it into chilled cocktail glasses. Garnish the drink with the apple slices and it is ready to be served.
Buying akvavit from the right place
If you are contemplating getting your hands on the drink, you should strive to ensure that you buy akvavit from a place that can be relied upon. You also need to be sure that you are well aware of the different types there are which would make it certain that you would get your hands on what you will like. Different areas have different types, so you would need to specifically search for the akvavit of the area that appeals to you. A bit of research would be required for the purpose which would make it certain that you get exactly what you are looking for and do not have to be disappointed.
Due to online shopping, things have become a whole lot easier. You now have the opportunity to have the spirit delivered to your doorstep from different parts of the world. This drink is certainly impressive in terms of style. However, it can also be strong for some, which is why you should ensure that it is something that you would be able to withstand.
Akvavit is a mark of culture and tradition. You will attain the full experience that it has to offer if you abide by the tradition that is followed in association with it.