Jacob Grier and Martin Swanström
Jacob Grier and Martin Swanström


Akvavit - an old friend in new clothes

To most Scandinavians, aquavit, or akvavit, is an essential ingredient of all the national holidays - but mainly drunk neat. The times though, as a famous songwriter once sang, are a' changing.

Christmas, Easter, Midsummer, whatever the occasion in Scandinavia, an aquavit  is as big a part of the tradition as the food. However, it’s becoming increasingly popular, especially in the US to use the drink in cocktails. At the House of Scandinavia at SXSW this year, Arcus, the owner of the iconic LINIE and Aalborg brands, among many others, used the opportunity to showcase different ways in which it can be used.

“We want to show aquavit in a different setting to the one people are used to,” says Arcus’ Martin Swanstrøm. “In the US especially, it’s being taken into bars and into the mixology scene as an ingredient in cocktails. So we think this is a fantastic chance to say ‘ok you’re going to the other side of the world and you’re going to meet a product that you know in one way, but now we’re going to show it to you in another.’ We’re serving it back to them from a US perspective.”

“If you go to a Scandinavian country and tell the traditional consumers you’re going to use aquavit with a mixer,” adds Swanstrøm “they’ll think you’re crazy. We think it’s fantastic to be a partner here at the House of Scandinavia and have the chance to add to the flavor of the occasion – Mads Refslund has even included aquavit in some of the dishes he has produced in the pop-up restaurant – it’s been a great cooperation.”

Refslund has spoken at length about the value of traveling and sampling new cultures during his week in Austin, and it seems that feedback from the US about how aquavit is used there could help push the drink in unexpected ways back in Scandinavia.

“In the US, no one pairs spirits with food, that’s really unusual here,” adds aquavit ambassador and mixologist Jacob Grier. “Aquavit is being adopted by bartenders as a cocktail ingredient, so it’s a complete reverse to the situation in Scandinavia. Aquavit offers a new palate of flavors and options for bartenders, and it proves how much you can learn when you travel and expose yourself to new perspectives.”

Meanwhile, things are changing at home too, according to Swanstrøm.

“We are seeing  aquavit being used more in Scandinavia, especially in higher-end cocktail bars. A lot of the top bars are working with aquavit, and more and more consumers are discovering it as a great way to make a Nordic twist to cocktails. This is great, because aquavit is truly the “Spirit of the Nordics.”

Last edited: March 21, 2018


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