- On June 19, 2018
Aquavit is a traditional spirit from the Scandinavian peninsula. If gin is vodka flavored with juniper berries, aquavit is vodka flavored with either dill or caraway. Like gin, other ingredients can be used to flavor the spirit, typically cardamom, cumin, anise, fennel, grains of paradise, and citrus peels. Caraway fruit, wrongly considered a seed, lends a savory, spicy, toasted flavor most commonly associated with rye bread. On the other hand, dill contributes a fresh green character similar to celery. Together, the two flavor sauerkraut, coleslaw, and good pickles and pair wonderfully with fresh or salted seafood, potatoes, soups, and more.
Fascinatingly, while the spirit is from Northern Europe, different cultures around Europe in the 1500s were making different spirits but calling it the same thing. The word aquavit comes from the latin aqua vitae, meaning “water of life.” This is the same root as French phrase for clear brandy, eau de vie, and also means the same as the Scottish Gaelic term for whiskey, uisge beatha. And like all distilled spirits at the time, every culture believed it was a cure all for illness.
Aquavit drinking custom varies from country to country, as do the style of the spirit. Sweden, Denmark, and Germany typically sip the chilled spirit from a shot glass. Aquavit is commonly associated with celebrations
such as Easter and Christmas where typical Scandinavian food is served like pickled herring, crayfish, lutefisk, and smoked fish. It’s commonly quipped that aquavit helps the fish swim down to the stomach. Aquavit is also consumed after a song, called a snapsvisa, which are sometimes sung at crayfish parties held in the late summer.
Norwegian aquavit is traditionally aged in oak barrels on a ship. The ship goes from Norway down to Australia and back, crossing the equator, or linje, twice. According to the makers of Linie Aquavit, the tradition is from an 1805 journey from Norway to Indonesia.
The traders were unable to sell their aquavit and returned home with it. They discovered the voyage had improved the spirit, and after unsuccessful attempts to repeat the technique on land, the company decided that the casks must travel by sea for 4.5 months. The recipe started as a secret but now it’s on every label.
Try a few aquavits with Aaron on Thursday the 21st from 5-8pm. He will have a few traditional spirits, along with some new, local ones. See you there!