Aquavit

Aquavit is a Nordic spirit made from distilling grain or potato. It’s later infused with herbs and spices like dill and caraway. Aquavit can either be crystal-clear or amber in colour and tastes like a mix of gin and vodka.
Three glasses with aquavit spirit, one red, one transparent and one yellow, placed over a dark brown wooden tray.

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Aquavit – Akvavit: Capturing The Spirit of the North

Have you heard of Aquavit? It’s not just any drink; it’s a treasure from the snowy regions of Scandinavia. Think of a drink as clear as crystal but with a sprinkle of magic!

While it might remind you of gin or vodka, Aquavit stands out with its unique flavors. It’s like sipping on a blend of herbs and spices, especially caraway and dill. It’s as if you’re tasting the essence of a Scandinavian meadow! Legends say that even the Vikings have relished Aquavit during their legendary gatherings.

Even more stunning is how the brand Linie Aquavit crafts its products. It’s placed in oak barrels and then spends four adventurous months at sea, crossing the Equator twice! The rolling waves and diverse climates enhance the rich, smooth flavor….

What is Aquavit?

Pouring aquavit from a bottle into small glasses arranged on a silver tray, with a blurred background.

Aquavit (or “Akvavit”) is a distilled spirit from Scandinavia, flavored primarily with caraway or dill seeds. It’s often consumed during festive occasions in Nordic countries.

The name “Aquavit” comes from the Latin “aqua vitae,” which means “water of life.” This name echoes its importance in early Nordic culture and its perceived medicinal benefits.

How to say it? It’s pronounced, “ah-kwah-veet.”

Types of Aquavit

Here’s a concise overview of the different types:

  • Norwegian Aquavit: This type ages in oak barrels, giving it a golden color. It has a rich taste with hints of caraway, anise, and fennel.
  • Swedish Aquavit: Sweden produces a wide variety of Aquavits. They often have a clear appearance. Flavors range from citrus and anise to fennel and dill.
  • Danish Aquavit: Denmark’s version is clear and has a strong caraway flavor. Some variants add other spices like coriander, but caraway dominates.
  • Icelandic Aquavit: Known as “Brennivín,” this type has a clear appearance. It features caraway as its primary flavor, with a smooth finish.
  • North American Aquavit: North American distillers craft their versions inspired by European traditions. These often experiment with local herbs and botanicals.

Five Nordic flags waving against a cloudy sky, representing Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Denmark from left to right.

What does Aquavit taste like?

Aquavit tastes like a blend of herbs and spices, with caraway or dill as the dominant flavors.

How much alcohol is in Aquavit?

Aquavit has an Alcohol by Volume (ABV) ranging from 37.5% to 45%, translating to 75 to 90 proof.

It has a similar strength category as many of the world’s liquors. For comparison, vodka typically holds steady at around 40% ABV or 80 proof.

Are there any Aquavit substitutes?

If you’re looking to capture the essence of Aquavit but don’t have a bottle on hand, there are a few alternatives to consider. 

Caraway Schnapps or Kümmel can step in seamlessly, given their pronounced caraway notes, a hallmark of many Aquavits. And gin, with its botanical profile, can also serve as a substitute in mixed drinks. While these alternatives might not entirely replicate, they can bring a similar spirit to your culinary creations or cocktails.

Top 8 aquavit brands?

We’ve handpicked 8 top Aquavit brands from Scandinavia, providing a glimpse into this intriguing spirit.

Linie

A bottle of Linie Aquavit next to two glasses, one empty and one filled with the golden spirit, against a grey background.

Linie hails from Norway and stands out because it ages its Aquavit on ships, letting it cross the Equator twice. This unique process gives it a distinct oak-aged flavor.

Aalborg

Large white letters spelling "AALBORG AKVAVIT" sit on top of an old red brick building against a clear blue sky.

A renowned brand from Denmark, Aalborg offers a variety of Aquavits. Their Taffel Aquavit is especially popular with its clear appearance and caraway-forward taste.

O.P. Anderson

This Swedish brand has been around since the 1890s. It boasts a rich flavor profile with caraway, anise, and fennel.

Krogstad

Representing the U.S., Krogstad brings a modern twist to the traditional spirit. It combines star anise and caraway for a balanced taste.

Brennivín

Often dubbed the “Black Death” due to its historic black label, this Icelandic Aquavit is clear with a dominant caraway flavor.

Gamle Ode

An American brand, Gamle Ode offers three versions:  dill, holiday, and celebration Aquavits, each with its unique blend of botanicals.

Åhus Akvavit

Starting from a base spirit of grown winter wheat, this brand offers different versions that share the common flavor of caraway and then distinguish themselves with other aromatizations such as cinnamon, lemon peel, and seville orange. 

Spirit of Hven

From the Swedish island of Hven, this Aquavit offers a complex mix of herbs, spices, and citrus.

Where to buy Aquavit online?

Check out sites like Master of Malt or The Whisky Exchange. They have lots of choices. If you’re in the U.S., try Drizly or Total Wine & More for fast delivery.

Why do we like Aquavit?

We love Aquavit for a few reasons. First off, its unique taste sets it apart from other drinks we’ve tried, especially with those caraway or dill flavors. The stories of Viking times and big Nordic celebrations make it even more special to us. We can enjoy Aquavit neat or mix it into some fantastic drinks. And with all the different types and flavors, there’s always something new for us to discover.

How Much Does Aquavit Cost – Price Ranges

  • Budget-Friendly Options:

For an introduction to Aquavit without breaking the bank, brands like Aalborg Taffel and O.P. Anderson are great picks. They typically range from $20 to $30, providing a genuine taste of this Nordic spirit.

  • Mid-Range Choices:

Stepping up in price, brands like Linie and Brennivín offer a deeper dive into Aquavit’s flavors. These bottles usually fall between $30 to $60 and come from distilleries with a long-standing reputation.

  • Premium Selections:

For those seeking the finest Aquavits, brands like Spirit of Hven stand out. These premium options, priced above $60, showcase the best of Aquavit craftsmanship.

How to Drink Aquavit

  • Straight Up:

The traditional way to enjoy Aquavit is to serve it chilled, straight from the freezer. Pour it into a shot glass and savor the rich flavors. It’s a popular choice during Scandinavian celebrations, especially with a toast or “skål!”

  • With Food:

Aquavit pairs wonderfully with food. It accompanies dishes like pickled herring, smoked fish, and other seafood in Nordic countries. The spirit’s herbal notes complement these foods’ salty and smoky flavors.

Three glasses with aquavit and sprig of dill, layered with brown bread and topped with salmon and black caviar, on a bright background.

  • In Cocktails:

Modern mixologists have embraced Aquavit as a versatile ingredient in cocktails. Its unique flavor profile adds depth to drinks. Mix it with tonic water, lemon, and a sprig of dill for a refreshing twist.

  • On the Rocks:

For a milder experience, pour Aquavit over ice. This method lets you enjoy the spirit’s nuances as it slowly dilutes.

Popular Aquavit Cocktails

Nordic Mule

A twist on the classic Moscow Mule, the Nordic Mule blends Aquavit with ginger beer and fresh lime juice. Served over ice in a copper mug, it’s a refreshing drink with a spicy kick.

Nordic Summer

With an elegant combination of Aquavit, Aperol, and lime juice the Nordic Summer provides us with a refreshing cocktail well balanced with fruity and herbal notes.

Tomas Collins

This drink offers a refreshing twist of the Tom Collins with simple syrup, lime juice, soda water, and dill pickle brine.

Viking Blood

Not for the faint-hearted, this cocktail mixes Aquavit with coffee liqueur, and lemon-lime soda. It’s a bold drink with a sweet-tart profile, served on the rocks in a highball glass.

What are the ingredients of Aquavit?

A neutral distilled spirit is at the foundation, typically derived from grain or potatoes. This base sets the stage for the infusion of distinct flavors.

  • Caraway Seeds:

These seeds play a pivotal role, imparting a unique and defining taste that distinguishes the spirit from other liquors.

  • Dill:

Often added to the mix, dill introduces a fresh and slightly tangy dimension, harmonizing with the spiciness of caraway.

  • Other Botanicals:

Beyond caraway and dill, a blend of herbs and spices often finds its way into the mix. Anise, fennel, coriander, and citrus peels are common choices, contributing to the spirit’s rich and varied flavor profile.

How is Aquavit made?

1. First Distillation Process:

The neutral distilled spirit, usually crafted from grain or potatoes, is the foundation for future flavors.

2. Infusing the Flavors:

The heart of Aquavit lies in its botanicals. Caraway seeds take center stage, infusing the spirit with their signature taste. Dill often joins the mix, adding a fresh twist. Other herbs and spices like anise, fennel, coriander, and citrus peels might also appear depending on the recipe. These ingredients are steep in the spirit, transferring their essence.

3. Second Distillation Process:

After infusion, the spirit undergoes another round of distillation. This process refines the flavors and ensures a smooth finish.

4. Aging (Optional):

While not all Aquavits age, some rest in oak barrels for months or years. This aging process deepens the color, enriches the flavor, and adds layers of complexity.

History and Origin of Aquavit

The story of Aquavit dates back to the 15th century. Originating in Scandinavia, early records mention it as a drink believed to have healing properties. People once thought it could cure various ailments, from snake bites to digestive issues.

A serene Scandinavian winter landscape at sunset with a small town nestled on an island surrounded by a calm sea and snowy mountains under a soft pink sky.

Aquavit was initially valued for its health benefits, but it’s shifted over the centuries. By the 18th century, it had become important on festive occasions, especially during midsummer and Christmas celebrations. People loved using it for toasts and songs during celebrations.

Caraway emerged as the dominant flavor early on. However, as the spirit’s popularity grew, distillers began experimenting with other botanicals. Dill, anise, fennel, and citrus peels soon joined the mix, leading to the diverse range of Aquavits we know today.

Nutritional Facts

The USDA supplies the nutritional data for a single shot of Aquavit, which weighs 42 grams or 1.5 ounces. Here’s a table summarizing the nutritional facts:

Nutrient Amount Unit
Calories 64 kcal
Fat 0 g
Carbohydrates 0.5 g
Fiber 0 g
Protein 0 g
Vitamin 0 mcg
Minerals 0 mg
Alcohol Content 37,5-45 %

(Please note that the nutritional content can vary slightly based on the brand and specific formulation. Always refer to the product label for the most accurate information).

FAQs

  1. Why is some Aquavit golden in color? The golden hue comes from aging in oak barrels.
  2. How long does Aquavit last once opened? Like other spirits, it has a long shelf life but is best consumed within a year for optimal flavor.
  3. How should I store Aquavit? Store it in a cool, dark place or the freezer.
  4. Can I make Aquavit at home? Yes, you can easily make it in your kitchen using vodka infused with caraway seeds, fresh dill, star anise, fennel seeds, and lemon zest. Let it sit for a few days, and you’ll have homemade Aquavit.
  5. How do you toast with Aquavit like a true Viking? In Nordic countries, it’s common to shout “skol” (or “skål”) before drinking Aquavit. When toasting, always maintain eye contact. This originated from Vikings who vigilantly watched others during celebrations for potential threats.
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