And caraway seed is still the most important herb in Akvavit. Like anise in Raki or juniper in Gin. A tradition that goes back hundreds of years …
Nowadays, Akvavit is made out of a more complex herbs bill. Herbs like caraway, dille, cardamom, cumin, anise, and even grains of paradise are used.
The base of the drink is no longer a crudely distilled beer. A vodka made out of grains or potatoes is used as the base liquor.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the name “Akvavit” has the same origin as Whiskey: it is derived from “Aqua Vitae”. That’s “water of life” in Latin.
Akvavit is usually 40% strong and white. It is served cold and it is served at special occasions. The Danish and Norwegians drink it around Christmas or Easter. In Sweden, Akvavit is more of a staple schnapps, consumed at … well, pretty much any occasion actually.
Norwegian Akvavit (called “Akkevit”) stands out from the pack. Norwegians drink their Akkevits at room temperature. Most Norwegian Akkevit is actually aged on wooden casks. The maturation process (or actuall: the “wooding” process) is very similar to how Dutch Genever is matured: for a relatively short time and preferably at sea. I guess these similarities in traditions can be traced back to the fact both the Norwegians and the Dutch have a strong sea faring tradition and culture.
I don’t know what ageing in wooden casks does to Norwegian Akkevit, since my experience is with “white” unaged Danish Akvavit mostly. My guess is, taste is both more mellow and more complex. But that is just guesswork. If anybody can give an update based on the experience of actually drinking Akkevit, please step in!
Akvavit is a great companion to herring and rye bread. Somehow the drink and the fish bring out the best tastes, when combined.
Nowadays, Akvavit is mostly consumed by elder people, in Scandinavia. In the past the drink was made and consumed in the Baltic states, Northern Germany and The Netherlands.
In the next article on Akvavit, I will share my recipe. Let us put it to good use and bring back Akvavit to the younger generations!