The relative lack of curiosity in aquavit in the USA is no surprise. In Scandinavia, the spirit has struggled to seek out reputation amongst a youthful era that has embraced American-style cocktails.
However the identical spreading curiosity that has introduced consideration to conventional spirits like mezcal and gin is giving aquavit a brand new life — beginning with craft distillers, each right here and within the Nordic nations, who’re making recent expressions of the liquor.
“Youthful bartenders and connoisseurs are rediscovering aquavit,” stated Thomas Klem Andersen, whose weblog Cocktails of Copenhagen covers the town’s bar scene. “After years of hype about whiskey, rum and gin, many people are exploring what’s in our personal yard.”
Aquavit, or akvavit (actually “water of life”), is produced from a distilled grain or potato spirit and have to be flavored predominantly with caraway or dill. There are often different components within the combine — like anise, fennel seed, cumin, cardamom and citrus peels — however the caraway or dill have to be the lead botanical. (Aquavit is usually referred to casually as “snaps,” however not all snaps can legally be aquavit; snaps is a extra basic time period that features spirits with flavors like berries, nuts, peppers or horseradish.)
Aquavit is among the few spirits on the earth that’s historically paired with meals. In Denmark, Aalborg’s red-label taffel (or “desk”) bottling is classically served at lunch, chilled and neat alongside smorrebrod and pickled herring, backed by a Tuborg or Carlsberg beer. In Norway, there are particular bottlings to pair with particular dishes equivalent to herring, lutefisk and the epically stinky rakefisk.
In essence, aquavit is sort of a gin flavored with caraway or dill somewhat than juniper. Given the present reputation of craft gins, it’s shocking that aquavit has not fairly discovered a wider viewers. In Denmark, a lot of smaller, craft distillers are experimenting with aquavits that ratchet up the juniper taste, whereas conserving the mandatory caraway character.
Even the New Nordic culinary motion, led by cooks like René Redzepi of Noma and restaurateurs like Mr. Meyer, hasn’t given aquavit its fashionable reinterpretation or experimental spin the way in which they did with so many different conventional Nordic components.
Nonetheless, aquavit is the best-selling spirit in Denmark and Norway, by an extended stretch. In Norway, the place the home market is strong, aquavits are a premium liquor, historically aged in sherry casks and loved after dinner like a Cognac or Scotch.
Arcus, a Norwegian firm that’s the largest aquavit producer on the earth with greater than 60 % of the market, produces the best-known model, Linie. Out there in the USA, its casks are famously carried aboard ships that cross the Equator twice earlier than it’s offered, to mellow the spirit. The voyage date and ship are listed on each label.
Linie is only one of greater than 40 aquavits obtainable in Norway. Arcus expects to introduce considered one of its high labels, Opland, aged two years, to the USA within the close to future.
However in Denmark, many concern that as an older era passes on, their love of aquavit is not going to be inherited by the subsequent.
“We now have this stigmatized relationship with aquavit, from after we all drank so many photographs at Christmas lunch after which threw up,” stated Rasmus Poulsgaard, a Copenhagen drinks guide and co-author of “Akvavit — Rediscovering a Nordic Spirit.” “Most older drinkers are tremendous customers. You’d must recruit 18 new younger drinkers once you lose one tremendous person.”
A few of aquavit’s stagnation might be blamed on company neglect. From 1999 to 2008, Aalborg — Denmark’s best-selling aquavit — was owned by V&S, the Swedish state-owned monopoly, which was then purchased by Pernod Ricard, ostensibly to amass Absolut vodka. The aquavit model languished beneath Pernod Ricard’s watch. Arcus purchased the model in 2013.
In consequence, Aalborg aquavit largely sat out the cocktail renaissance that started a decade in the past, when bartenders and drinkers found all kinds of latest spirits. Due to this missed alternative, aquavit innovation was first pushed by small craft producers in Denmark.
“We have to save aquavit from itself,” stated Sune Risum-Urth, a model ambassador at Copenhagen Distillery, and Mr. Poulsgaard’s co-author. The craft distillery has added components to its aquavits equivalent to Indonesian sizzling peppers, smoked bacon and even the jawbone from an Angus oxen. Others are experimenting with ageing in whiskey or rum barrels.
In the USA — other than Aalborg, Linie and the Swedish model O.P. Anderson — probably the most broadly obtainable aquavits are Krogstad, produced by House Spirits in Portland, Ore., and Gamle Ode, from Minnesota, the most effective instance of a dill-forward aquavit one can discover in the USA. Krogstad makes each aged and unaged kinds, with an American twist of including star anise to mingle with the caraway.
Arcus, as the most important participant, has embraced craft aquavit. The corporate now promotes its dill aquavit, Dild, which is standard amongst Copenhagen bartenders. In Norway, at its Atlungstad distillery, Arcus has a younger staff distilling small batches of juniper-forward aquavit and one infused with butter.
In August, Arcus sponsored Spirikum, a snaps and aquavit pageant the place two dozen craft producers from Nordic nations, and some from the USA, gathered at Copenhagen Distillery. This sort of cooperation between giant and small corporations not often occurs with spirits like whiskey or vodka. “We now have to have an open-door coverage with the smaller producers,” stated Lars Kragelund, Arcus’s technical model director for Aalborg. “We now have to unite our forces.”
In the USA, curiosity in aquavit might take some time to develop.
“It’s very tempting for aquavit producers to leap on the New York prepare proper manner,” stated Jonas Andersen, of the meals corridor in Grand Central. “We want a younger era in Scandinavia to get enthusiastic about aquavit earlier than it will get standard in New York.”
Aquavit is more durable to seek out in the USA than in Nordic nations, however listed here are 5 varieties which might be extra broadly obtainable. (All bottles are 750 milliliters.) JASON WILSON
Lysholm Linie 41.5 % $30
Savory caraway and juniper notes are balanced by oaky and smoky notes. (Sazerac Firm, Metairie, La.)
Aalborg Taffel 45 % $22
A transparent, unaged “desk” aquavit with intense herbs and spice flavors. (Sazerac)
Aalborg Jubilaeums 40 % $25
Golden in shade, softer than the Taffel, with heat citrus notes to accompany the caraway, dill and anise. (Sazerac)
Krogstad Festlig 40 % $27
Wealthy, unctuous aquavit with pronounced notes of star anise. (Home Spirits, Portland, Ore.)
Gamle Ode Dill 42 % $28
Recent, shiny and inexperienced, like an herb backyard in springtime. (Gamle Ode, Minneapolis)