What is aquavit?
Aquavit is a strong spirit originating in the Nordic countries, at least 37.5% in the alcohol strength department, with a dominant taste of caraway, dill, or both. Whether you’ve heard of it, tasted it or had twelve shots of it last night, it is – in our humble opinion – an undervalued classic.
In the cool North of Europe, a proud aquavit bottle is the maypole around which celebrations swing. Aquavit is also something of a symbol for Scandinavian cuisine. Depending on which of the Nordic countries it comes from, almost all of the home-cooked meals in that region are aligned in sisterly fashion with that country’s particular style and character of aquavit.
From the 15th century, we’ve been steeping herbs and spices into our hard booze. Many options have been tried, many delicious combinations and innovations have been discovered, many toasts have been proposed. The seasoning of aquavit has developed into a fine art through respect for the raw material, scientific manufacturing, more meticulous seasoning and some creativity.
If you are a newcomer to the world of aquavits, Swedish aquavits are a perfect option for first try. The Swedish aquavit style is based strongly on caraway but the spice distillates are usually matured in ordered to create a more soft and a more round taste. O.P. Anderson is the classic. Try also Skåne Akvavit.
The Danish version of aquavit might seem a little rough for the beginner. They are in general very spicy as the spice distillates nor the liquid are matured. Brøndums Original is a traditional Danish aquavit.
The Danes are also fond of making spicing their own snaps with whatever ingredients they might find in the garden. Aquavits that have "klar" (clear) in their name, are suitable for this. They make a neutral base for different spices.
In Norway, aquavits are cask matured at least 6 months which bring a distinctive taste of cask maturation to it. The standard cask used in Norway is a sherry cask. The main spice is caraway.
Water of life in the rest of the world
In Scandinavian countries, aquavit has a strong heritage. There are distinct rules what kind of snaps is aquavit and what is not. In the rest of the world, "aquavit" as a term is interpreted differently; if you meat people abroad, they might have refer to aquavit as a water of life – a term that originally in the history meant any kind of spiced spirit.