Aquawhaaat? – Hanging around with Aquavit
When I met Stella Bouchette, Marketing Manager at Arcus Norway and Aquavit Brand Ambassador for the first time at an Aquavit Masterclass, I immediately felt right back in my student days. For many, Aquavit is a forgotten or unknown spirit. However, anyone who has studied in and around Mannheim knows the taste all too well. In the 60s, many Norwegians came to Mannheim thirsty for knowledge and with their luggage full of Aquavit, a remedy against homesickness. Every week the students celebrated in Mannheim Castle, where the university is located, with smoked salmon, goat’s cheese and, of course, with Aquavit. The students from Norway made the so-called Norwegian Party a Mannheim legend and institution.
My study years are long gone, but the Aquavit is back. Straight, with dinner, as a playmate in cocktails, versatile, elegant and classic. But what is Aquavit? Is it just a caraway schnapps?
Aquawhaaaat? Aquavit is the Spirit of the Nordics.
The name Aquavit is derived from the Latin “aqua vitae.” As the “Water of Life,” Aquavit has its home in Scandinavia. There, much like whisky in Scotland, it is the national drink. Its history began as early as the 14th century and, as is so often the case in the history of spirits, as a natural remedy.
The base is neutral alcohol, which is obtained from grain or potatoes depending on the country of origin. Primarily caraway and/or dill are added, as well as other herbs and spices, together with orange or lemon peels depending on the flavour profile. The second distillation takes place after maceration, i.e. when the botanicals have given their flavours to the alcohol. First distillation for the high volume is done using a column still and the second one for the aroma uses a pot still method. Does this remind you of the gin production process? It is almost identical, and for that very reason a perfect cocktail application.
Aquavit is made like Gin and aged like Whisky.
Whether potato or grain, more caraway or more dill, whether Aquavit is written with K or Q, barrel-aged or not, this all depends on the country of origin. An Akvavit, with a K, comes from Denmark or Sweden, for example, is mainly made from grain and is unaged.
Linie is a Norwegian aquavit made from potatoes and matured at sea. For more than 200 years oak sherry casks full of aquavit have been shipped twice across the equator to give it its unique flavour. Linie, by the way, is the Norwegian name for the Equator. It was more by accident when, at the beginning of the 19th century, the Norwegian trading family Lysholm found out that a sea journey improves the taste of aquavit. Since that time every single cask is lovingly rocked by the waves for 4 months on the sea giving the composition a refined taste. It’s worth taking a closer look at the label: each bottle documents the itinerary travelled and the name of the ship. In Norway, the law regulates that aquavit must be matured in sherry barrels.
Before travelling, however, the Linie Aquavit has already spent 12 months in a sherry cask. Sweetness and some pleasant wood notes are the result. In total, Linie Aquavit matures for a full 16 months in barrels. The Double Cask Edition of Linie spends another 12 months either in a port or madeira cask. Ageing in barrels over an extended period gives a wide range of flavours and makes the spirit an exciting multi-faceted product.
Regional origin of ingredients, changed drinking behaviour of consumers: Aquavit hits the spirit of the time.
Gin’s omnipresence has made many consumers more attentive when it comes to spirits. Interest in ingredients and production processes has increased. In the area of food and drink there is an increasingly interested and open-minded audience, ready to engage in culinary adventures.
I had my first Aquavit cocktail in Oslo in the award-winning bar HIMKOK. It was a mix of aquavit, classic tawny port wine (10 years), a lignon rosehip shrub and lime juice. The drink, with the exciting name “Ut på tur, aldri sur”, was served in a traditional vessel. The Norwegians love to hike and the cocktail’s name reflects this: you should hike in a good mood, and if you are not in a good mood the hike will put you good mood. My first encounter couldn’t have been better, a lasting taste experience.
Aquavit Week: Drinking for a good cause. Skål!
Aquavit Week gives aquavit a perfect stage. It will take place in Germany for the second time this year and lasts from 4 November to 11 November 2018. More than 80 bars from all over Germany take part and I had the honour of drawing a map of Germany with the locations. Each bar will present Aquavit’s versatility to its guests with one or more drinks. Many people in Germany certainly know Malteserkreuz from grandpa’s fridge, which is, by the way, a German aquavit from the 1920s, but Aquavit in a cocktail!? The drinks are prepared using Linie Aquavit and Lysholm No.52 from Norway, Aalborg Dild Akvavit from Denmark or Malteserkreuz Aquavit from Germany, so a good opportunity to try the different kinds and also for a good cause. For every drink sold, during Aquavit Week, one euro goes to the independent non-profit organisation P(our), founded by renowned bar professionals. You support not only training programmes in the catering industry, but also environmental projects.
More information https://www.facebook.com/aquavitweekgermany/
I am setting sail for the Aquavit week in different cities. With a fair wind, inspirations and recipes from my bar life follow below.
Bad Boy by Merlin Braun, Bar Manager at Orania Berlin
6 cl Linie Aquavit Madeira Cask
2,5, cl Fresh lime juice
1,5 cl Agave syrup
0,5 cl Saline solution
Shake and serve on the rocks in a nosing glass. Garnish with a dried lemon wheel.
Aqualicious Twist on a Daiquiri.
Golden Globe by Hunky Dory in Frankfurt
Stir and serve in a beautiful glass. Garnish with a dried apple and lemon zest.