Today is my birthday so I started my day with a shot of aquavit. Ok, I’m only partly kidding, as I needed to taste the homemade aquavit I’ve been brewing for the past week, to see if it was fit to be bottled. And I’m happy that today it was just perfect!
I’ve been a bit disheartened over the years at the poor selection of Norwegian (and Scandinavian for that matter) aquavits on the U.S. market. There are more and more American-based producers making aquavit which is fun to see but I do miss authentic Scandinavian brands.
So what’s a girl to do? I decided that while I work on getting more available stateside, I would make my own. In this post I’m sharing my recipe and hope you will try it out!
But first, a few pointers on aquavit:
How is aquavit made?
Aquavit or akevitt in Norwegian, is a distilled spirit that is principally produced in Scandinavia, where it has been produced since the 15th century. Aquavit is typically based on a neutral spirit distilled from potatoes or grain and gets its distinctive flavor from the addition of spices and herbs.
The dominant flavor must come from a distillate of caraway and/or dill seed but spices like coriander, fennel, cardamom and star anise are frequently added too. The characteristics should be achieved by aroma distillation and not have any additions of essential oils.
Norwegian aquavit is based on potatoes although in earlier years, various grain was used too. In Sweden and Denmark it’s the opposite – historically they based their aquavit on potatoes but today, grain is almost exclusively used.
Aquavit typically contains 40% alcohol by volume or 80 proof (U.S.) and must possess at least 37.5% alcohol by law.
How does it taste?
Aquavit is a quality spirit along the lines of whisky, rum and cognac, and can have many different aromas, flavors and textures.
Today, there are a plethora of styles, but classic aquavits are regularly described having flavors of caraway, dill and citrus with a touch of oak. Colors can vary too, depending on the style desired and producers.
Aquavit is definitely more on the savory side versus sweet, it has loads of spiciness and complexity from the variety of herbs and spices added.
How to enjoy and serve
Aquavit is best enjoyed in a small, tulip-shaped glass, which allows you to capture all the aromas and flavors the spirit encaptures. Swirling the glass a bit before smelling it allows oxygen to enter and bring out more aromas. Adding a couple of drops of water makes it often easier to smell the various layers. Take a sip and let the aquavit roll around in your mouth so it hits all your taste buds, and don’t rush it. Aquavit is often complex, particularly if you’re tasting a Christmas aquavit, that often is both aged in barrels and with an addition of more warming spices than traditional, summer-based aquavits.
The color could tell you whether it has been aged in oak but there are clear aquavits that have been aged in barrels too so it’s not always an indicator. The color intensity could also indicate the age of the barrels.
While it’s a widespread tradition to enjoy aquavit during Christmas it’s not just a Christmas drink. Aquavit can be exquisite with classic summer foods, soups and stews all year round and with cheese and dessert!
Suggestion for serving: Some people like it ice cold, others prefer it room temperature to allow more of the flavors to come out. It’s up to you!
Besides drinking it straight as a schnapps, get creative with cocktails!
Mix 2 oz (6 cl) of Aquavit with Tonic and a slice of lime for a nice and simple cocktail. I also like using aquavit in place of gin in an untraditional Negroni cocktail for a Scandinavian touch on this Italian classic cocktail.
Or try your hand at the cocktail recipe I’ve shared below!
If you’re interested in learning more about the history and tradition of aquavit you can check out my previous blog post here.
Christmas Aquavit (Juleakevitt)
1 liter potato vodka*
2 sprigs fresh dill
2 x 3-inch strips lemon peel) no pith
2 x3-inch strips orange peel (no pith)
2 pods star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
3 cardamom seeds, crushed
2 whole cloves
2 whole allspice
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
Put vodka, dill, lemon and orange zest in a sealable glass jar. Seal and shake, then let steep at room temperature for one day, or 24-36 hours. Remove the citrus zests and dill and add the spices to the liquid.
Let steep for another 3-7 days, taste every day after the 3rd day and if a stronger flavor is desired, then continue to steep for another week or so. When the aquavit has the taste you want, strain it through a cheesecloth and store in a clean glass bottle at room temp or in the fridge.
*You can also use wheat-based vodka or other vodka you have on hand.
Homemade Christmas Aquavit
- 1 liter (1 quart) potato vodka*
- 2 sprigs fresh dill
- 2 x 3-inch (8 cm) strips lemon peel) no pith
- 3- inch (8 cm) strips orange peel no pith
- 2 pods star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 3 cardamom seeds crushed
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 whole allspice
- 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
- Put vodka, dill, lemon and orange zest in a sealable glass jar. Seal and shake, then let steep at room temperature for one day, or 24-36 hours. Remove the citrus zests and dill and add the spices to the liquid.
- Let steep for another 3-7 days, taste every day after the 3rd day and if a stronger flavor is desired, then continue to steep for another week or so. When the aquavit has the taste you want, strain it through a cheesecloth and store in a clean glass bottle at room temp or in the fridge.
2 oz (6 cl) Christmas Aquavit
3 frozen cherries, thawed
1 sugar cube
3 dashes aromatic bitters
1 teaspoon water
2 orange slices, divided
Splash club soda
Place a sugar cube in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass and pour the 3 dashes of bitters and water over it.
Add one orange slice, two cherries and muddle for several seconds.
Add the aquavit and stir.
Strain into a rocks glass filled a large ice cube, top with a splash of club soda and garnish with the remaining orange slice and cherry with a large ice cube, top with a splash of club soda.
- 2 oz (6 cl) Christmas Aquavit
- 3 frozen cherries thawed
- 1 sugar cube
- 3 dashed aromatic bitters
- 1 teaspoon water
- 2 orange slices divided
- Splash club soda
- Place a sugar cube in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass and pour the 3 dashes of bitters and water over it.
- Add one orange slice, two cherries and muddle for several seconds.
- Add the aquavit and stir. Strain into a rocks glass filled a large ice cube and garnish with the remaining orange slice and cherry.