Thursday, January 31, 2013

Aquavit Akevitt Akvavit

Never heard of aquavit? Here’s a little info on the spirit that inspired our name. Come to our next party to taste it for yourself.

Akvavit (also spelled aquavit or akevitt) is a flavored spirit that is produced in Scandinavia and typically contains 40% alcohol by volume. Its name comes from aqua vitae, the Latin for “water of life.”

The liquor is made from a potato or grain mash, fermented traditionally with caraway seeds. Aquavit made with fennel, dill, anise, or coriander is also available, but caraway seeds are usually included for a hint of the classic flavor. 

I like to describe it like this: vodka that tastes a bit like rye bread. Like rye bread in a glass. Yum. Did you know that to be sold as aquavit in the U.S., the spirit must include the flavor of caraway?

While the Danish and Swedish versions are normally very light in color, most of the Norwegian brands are matured in oak casks for at least one year and for some brands even as long as 12 years, making them generally darker in color. Particular to the Norwegian tradition are linje akvavits (such as “Løiten Linje” and “Lysholm Linje”). These have been carried in oak casks onboard ships crossing the equator (linje) twice before being sold.

Aquavit is usually served in a snapps glass (like a shot glass with a stem). Some drinkers chase aquavit with beer; others think this ruins the aquavit’s flavor. Most Norwegians prefer aquavit at room temperature. When I was in Norway they said it ruins the aquavit to chill it, although it's usually served chilled in many other places.

Aquavit is often served with appetizers, particularly fish, and some people joke that the aquavit helps the fish swim to the stomach. It is also served with heavy meals, due to the belief that it will assist with digestion. Basically, aquavit can be served all the time…with any meal.

Here are a few of the aquavits you can find in the US:

Matured in old sherry casks, Linie has a rich rounded flavor with aniseed, caraway, and oak. Linie’s ability to aid digestion has been welcomed in countries all over the world. In the old days, Linie was actually drunk solely for its medicinal properties.
The Linie website suggested that a sip of Linie should be enjoyed after a sip of beer, so that the flavor can linger a second or two. It has been described as: well-rounded mild herb-taste with a light sherry note. This aquavit is Akvavit ensemble member Billy’s favorite.

Slightly amber; aged in oak casks; classic flavor hints anise, coriander, caraway and fennel.Your first impression may be: Slightly sweetish, caramelized molasses, spice and flowers, nutty. Taste: Spicy, sweet, fennel, dill, anise and coriander make for a savory mix that is very refreshing. Smooth and spicy.
This stuff is bold. Try it as a substitute for vodka or gin. My local neighborhood liquor store stopped stocking this. I don’t even know if you can find it in Chicago anymore. I’ll check at Binny’s.

White Cranberry Aquavit - Sweden/US

From the restaurant Aquavit in New York, this is one of the more popular handmade flavors & the first commercially available aquavit. Produced from cranberry concentrate from New England, and distilled in Sweden, this bottled aquavit has a small amount of caraway, too, as required by the Swedish government.

Description: Fruity aromas of cranberry sauce, strawberry frosting, and raspberry sorbet have a pleasantly spicy edge and follow through on a soft, slightly tannic entry to a fruity sweet medium body with vanilla fondant and citrus rind notes. Finishes with a delicate touch of lemongrass, medicinal herbs, tart, tannic cranberry skins and dusty limestone.

You can’t get this in Chicago -- only in New York…or you can order it online here. I have a bottle of this in my freezer right now!

According to the Aalborg website, it appears on both the Danes' lunch tables and at the banquets hosted by the Danish Royal Palace. With its alcoholic strength and intense caraway flavor Aalborg Akvavit is perfect for all the traditional strong Danish lunch dishes, especially the marinated herring. It is also great with classic dinner courses such as roast and pork.

North Shore Distillery Aquavit – Chicago!

We have our own aquavit distilled right here in the Chicagoloand area!
Tasting notes: "Yellow straw color with a chartreuse cast. vibrant and stimulating aromas of pink peppercorns, cardamom, lemongrass, medicinal roots and herbs, and sandalwood follow through on a silky entry to a dryish medium-to-full body with a touch of tilled earth a long, spicy fade. Excellent flavor, purity and depth.
Aquavit - Private Reserve starts with the basics: caraway, cumin, and coriander. These are macerated and distilled with the alcohol, and then aged in new American oak to “soften and meld the flavors.” Unlike other aquavits, they don’t add caramel coloring. The light brown color of the spirit is a result of the process.

North Shore also has recipes to share. 

I had a Ruby Keeler (Christian Bros. VSOP, Aquavit, Orange Bitters, Sugar Rim) the other night. It was quite delicious. 

Looking for more aquavit recipes? Ta-da.

White Cranberry Mojito

  • 2 item mint sprigs
  • 1 item lime, cut into wedges
  • 1 teaspoon simple sugar syrup
  • 2 ounce white cranberry Aquavit New York
  • 1 item cracked ice
  • 1 item splash of white cranberry juice
Directions: Crush one sprig of mint with lime wedges and simple syrup in bottom of a mixing glass (or pitcher). Add aquavit; shake with ice. Strain over cracked ice into a highball glass; top with white cranberry juice. Garnish with mint sprig.

Vikings Helmet

  • 3 oz  ginger ale
  • 0.75 oz  lime juice
  • 0.3 oz  pineapple juice
  • 0.75 oz vodka
  • 1.5 oz  aquavit
  • 1 dash bitters

Directions: Mix together with crushed ice in a glass and garnish with mint leaves

Hell Mary

  • 1 dash tobacco
  • 0.5 oz tequila
  • 1 oz tomato juice
  • 1 dash pepper
  • 1 oz aquavit
  • 1 dash horseradish

Directions: Mix together with crushed ice in a glass and garnish with mint leaves

Flat Eric

  • 1 oz lemon lime soda
  • 2 oz banana liqueur
  • 4 oz  sour mix
  • 2 oz aquavit

Directions: Use a high glass, fill up 3/4 with ice, add the banana liqueur, aquavit and sour mix then stir, the fill up with lemon soda (Sprite or 7up)

Andreas Viestad’s Mock Aquavit (don’t know who Andreas Viestad is? You’re missing out)

Note: some people prefer non-potato vodka – use whatever you like.

  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 2 teaspoons dill seeds
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 cinnamon stick, 1-inch long (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds (optional)
  • 1 liter potato vodka 

  1. Open the vodka bottle, add all the remaining ingredients, and cover tightly.
  2. Let stand in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks, shaking every 3-4 days -- how long you let it sit depends on how strong you want it. Taste it after 2 weeks to see if you want to let it go longer.
  3. when it's as strong as you'd like, strain the solids through a sieve and discard them. Transfer the aquavit back into the bottle.
  4. To serve, place your aquavit in the freezer until chilled and you can also place your 1 ounce tall glasses in the refridgerator until chilled.
  5. Ask your Scandinavian friends about toasting practices with aquavit, as it can be rather complicated (note from Bergen: and AWESOME!)
So there. Now you know a little more.

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