Aquavit: Scandinavian Warmth

Fixin's for an aquavit-inspired cocktail at Seattle's Sound Spirits Distillery.
"Daughters of Norway" cocktail.

Fire and Ice

Aquavit heats up winter celebrations.

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By Anthony Dias Blue
Photography by Chris Plavidal, Styling by Heidi Adams


One spirit makes the cold, dark winters of Scandinavia considerably warmer and more festive. Known variously as aquavit, akvavit, or akevitt (from the Latin aqua vitae, or “water of life”), this translucent grain- or potato- based alcohol is flavored with herbs and spices, most notably caraway and dill. Similar in alcohol content to vodka, aquavit is heady stuff that should be consumed with respect.

Though Scandinavia enjoys dozens of varieties, U.S. imports of Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian aquavit have dwindled. Fortunately, North American craft distillers have begun producing their own versions of the spirit.

Traditionally, aquavit is sipped either chilled or at room temperature, or taken as snaps, a quick shot during the appetizer course of a meal. Before downing it from raised glasses, courtesy and custom dictate that you look your companions squarely in the eye, nod, and propose the age-old Scandinavian toast: Skål! Another nod before placing the glasses back on the table seals the timeless ritual.

Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, November 2014.

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