There appears to be a minor fetish surrounding all things Scandinavian of late. The rise of Nordic cuisine has changed the way we in Britain - and around the world - approach and regard our food and ingredients. The likes of Noma and Faviken have influenced budding chefs, foodies and all those who are interested in the manner in which we are what we eat.
However, this has not quite extended to Scandinavian drinks. Drinking in Scandinavia is a difficult task given the government monopoly and the prices this creates. However, having presented at the Stockholm Beer and Whisky festival, it is clear that knowledge and passion abound even with this set up.
There is also a rich heritage of drinking culture, and many modern interpreters to provide a contemporary edge. When I visit Copenhagen next month, I'm equally excited to visit Ruby - a highly regarded cocktail bar around the world - and their sister bars, as I am Noma.
One of the traditions that can be enjoyed here though is the native spirit of Aquavit (although there are also innovative and unique producers of whisky and gin). Each country has its own interpretation of this wonderful spirit; be it a play on the ageing, the botanical mix or the base spirit, but all share a citrussy warmth that pairs wonderfully with seafood. I'm super keen to finally make it to a friend's celebration of their crayfish fest.
The spirit itself has similarities to a gin, but the focus is around the warmer spices of dill, cumin and caraway instead of juniper berries. As mentioned, each country as well as producer takes a different stance and as a result there is a huge range of flavours to enjoy. This means there is similarly a huge range of ways to enjoy the category from hearty, warming drinks, to lighter citrussy serves akin to how you would mix a gin. To add a further twist to this tale is the fact that many examples come aged. Although aged gins are starting to appear more often, this mix of a herbal spirit overlain with wood notes creates a very unique mixing proposition.
Perhaps most uniquely Linie Aquavit spends its maturation in ex-sherry barrels sailing around the ocean in the hull of a ship. Famously, every drop of the spirit needs to cross the equator twice. Made from a potato base spirit lending a soft creaminess, the herbal edge is backed by a tannic spice from the ageing to create a hugely complex serve that is surprisingly approachable - if you like anise. Others follow the ageing route but marry different types of wood. The Helsingor range from Denmark use both ex Madeira and Pedro Ximenez barrels to give a sweeter edge.
As the weather starts to warm and the freshness of spring brings more opportunity to be outside, I've found myself reaching for the spirit more. Enjoying the advantage of the lightness of a white spirit with the benefit of a bigger flavour of a darker spirit, it provides a great middle ground. It mixes very well, but it's certainly worth trying chilled alongside a beer and some seafood.
40ml Linie Aquavit
10ml Merlet Creme de Poires
15ml lemon juice
15ml pink grapefruit juice
15ml honey water (honey mixed in equal parts with some warm water)
2 dashes orange bitters
Shake all hard and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Perfect with some smoked salmon - try some locally smoked in London.Suggest a correction